The setting sun bathed the raised track before me with a warm light. Like many of the tracks through the clearings it had been formed by the passing of walkers taking best advantage of the lighter undergrowth. Beside this narrow green way the ground had sunken deeply and the light undergrowth covered deep ruts caused by arboricultural machinery from the past years harvesting of the trees. Where the ruts drew closer to the track it became extremely narrow forcing my foot falls into line to prevent turning an ankle by a misplaced step.
As I walked this natural tightrope I became aware of short sharp calls from the trees at the edge of the clearing. I cast my gaze into the dappled and lengthening shadows of the tree line to see a small shape flitting among the branches. The call was reminiscent of little owl calls I had heard in the past, I decided to push through the undergrowth of the clearing to investigate, careful to check the positioning of my steps as the ground was well suited habitat for the adders which on rare occasions grace these parts.
Closing on the tree line I approached a single standing dead wood. Continual chittering calls echoed loudly around the trees. The calls were relentless and quite hypnotic with their regularity and persistence, only the occasional call from the wandering bird broke through their repetition. With the last of the sun on my back I stopped for a few moments to try and find the cause of the cacophony. Close to the top of the deadwood I could see well chiseled holes on the bare wood of the tree. With a flurry of movement a bird appeared from the surrounding branches and closed on the deadwood. It appears the woodpeckers have created a nest overlooking the clearing and the noisy demands of the chicks would be keeping the parents busy while they remained.
I turned and left the young family to their evening as the sun set behind the horizon. I soon found myself back on the narrow trail and followed it along the western tree line of the clearing. In the twilight I looked into the silence and gloom of the wood to see another standing deadwood. Perched on the top was the sight of a tawny owl, motionless for a moment holding me in a gaze of quiet regard. In an instant the bird turned and glided silently into the woodland. The deadwood stood silent as if the tawny had never been there.
With a smile betraying the enriched moments and experiences I had just added to my life I continued, following the trail until I also turned and vanished into the darker woods.