Listening to the inner voice of curiosity

Blog - Phil-osophy on Landscape Photography > Listening to the inner voice of curiosity
12/06/2020 - 20:37


Listening to the inner voice of curiosity



Wandering beside the Dart estuary in Totnes from The Plains, even really early in the morning, means doing the social-distancing dance into ‘passing spots’ many times. It’s frequently a necessity to leap into the nearest void to avoid joggers – who (pretty much every one I’ve seen since March) seem happy only to plough forwards on their mission. As Bob Mortimer recently said on his Twitter page “When does the jogging end?... surely they must be getting close to declaring a winner?”.



It was just prior to one of those near-encounters with a fast-paced wazzock, that I saw a wonderful Little Egret over the water in a perfect urban-architectural setting. By the time I had the chance to regain the composition, the graceful bird had flown off downriver.



Following that narrowest section of the walk, I nearly decided to just wander off through the industrial estate, avoid potential close encounters, and see if there were any interesting passerine birds in that setting on my way to where I left my car. But I felt drawn to exploring the riverside a bit longer. Through the wooded section I saw a blackbird catching the early sunlight on his beak.




Mallards and Canada geese with their young – exploring their surroundings, bimbling through the wildflowers, reeds and long grasses of the wetlands on the east bank.




As I passed close to the railway bridge, I saw the relatively calm waters wobble ever so subtly, I knew that one of the Dart’s grey seals was hunting somewhere close by. I wandered up onto the suspension bridge that crosses the estuary to the South Devon Railway, a pigeon landed almost above my head to see if I could get an aerial view. The seal had gone upriver, I knew, as the water was flat once more below me and downstream. I turned and saw two pigeons under the railway bridge passionately ‘billing’ and showing their fondness for one another.





Moving on upriver, I saw again the tell-tale wake of sub-surface seals in a couple of places. They were shepherding in their hunt. Their quarry was driven towards the banks on both sides, to make it easier to try and catch, many times the fish evaded. Periodically the seals would break the surface to take air and then disappear again for lengths of times that only freedivers could safely replicate.



After maybe ten more minutes, I could hear the needs of my breakfast calling, and getting on with creating more lesson resources for college for next year. A quiet voice of curiosity in my mind told me to stay, something interesting might happen… the light was really good, the setting too. It had gone rather quiet in terms of wakes wobbling the surface.  I chatted for a few minutes with my past neighbour Ben - who is an avid early-morning walker, teacher, enthusiastic naturalist - and who it happened was out was on a seal-spotting mission as often he does.  Ben then wandered off down river, and I thought to myself “right five more minutes and then off for breakfast”. Suddenly, just before time was up, one of the seals made an appearance semi-submerged, chasing a fish towards the reeds of the far bank… then bam, thrash!!! A shower of sunlit pearly drops of water filled the air above the seal, as it flayed a large salmon around.


For a couple of minute it faced eastwards, away from me and I kept my fingers crossed that at some point it would turn around.





It then peeled much of the skin off the fish, with such ease as to be the envy of a chef or fishmonger armed with years of experience and a razor sharp blade






The salmon took a few minutes to be devoured by that large grey seal - I got a sense of how sharp the seal’s teeth and claws were, and from that got the distinct sense that this was a rather hefty fish. One last gulp, as the tail was heading down its gullet and it was all over. 




Yes, I know this what seals just do, but to see it happen in all it’s detail - in great light, early on a spring morning – well it certainly made me smile like crazy and yawp a loud, hearty yawp! I wandered home thinking smiling wide, feeling lucky that I wasn’t stuck in a traffic jam or an overcrowded train and appreciating the time to indulge in a walk before breakfast, and hearing the words in my head from one of my favourite films:


“Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Ferris Bueller






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