One of the joys of living afloat is that I am in the middle of a treasure haul of natural riches. Sometimes it is simply a stunning red sunset. Sometimes it is watching out of an open window as fish go about their business less than a metre away. Often my joy is about the wildlife. What a privilege it is to be able to watch swans turn their eggs as they await this year’s arrivals, or to watch them proudly parading the new hatchlings along the river as the young ride piggy back.
About a month ago a metre long grass snake wriggled across in front of me and down the steps leading to my mooring jetty and into the water. I converse with the swans who always come to say hello and move away disdainfully as soon as they realise there is no advantage to them in continuing the conversation. Perhaps if I can say I have a favourite species it is the kingfishers. I love to watch the ones that nest in a hole in the bank across the river from me and as they hurtle along the length of the river inches from the surface. They often sit on my bow or stern, the tiller arm or the roof as they watch for fish. Two days ago I ducked as a kingfisher emerged from the water and flew straight towards the open galley window by the sink where I was standing. At a final fraction of a second it banked sharply upwards and took its prey on to the roof. Although I didn’t see it on the roof I heard it. Then it flew across the river and back to the nest. Amazing. Since I have been here I have tried to take a photograph of a kingfisher. The best I have managed until today are unidentifiable blue and red blobs.
This morning I decided to sit elsewhere with my laptop and, looking up, I saw one of the kingfishers sitting on the prow of the boat. Had I been sitting at my desk I may not have noticed it. So slowly I reached for my phone, the only means I have for taking photographs until I remember what I did with my camera. I uncovered the lens and took one picture. Not close enough. I moved in painfully slow motion towards the front of the boat and took another. I kept moving forward, but didn’t manage a third photograph before the bird flew off. My foredeck is covered over with a wooden-framed cratch, where spiders weave and where there are two perspex windows I keep omitting to clean. However, here is my photograph. I am so pleased with it. It is the shot I have been wanting to capture for the last three years or more. I apologise for the dirty windows and the cobwebs that have managed to capture not just spidery supper, but feathers and dandelion clocks, but the object of my attention is as clear as can be. Once again I know I love living afloat. It is like all the best bits about camping.