“I made my own picture prompt this morning. I came upon this feisty bird whilst out walking with Lucy dog and was lucky enough to get a picture. It was clearly in the Thrush family and yet a little different to those I normally see in the fields of Norfolk. A little research in the old bird book at home revealed his identity. Between Birdo and the prompts this story was born. I’ll let Melissa tell you what the bird is …”
“Such a strange, speckled chest. Whatever sort of bird could that be?” Ben pondered while exchanging his binoculars for his camera. In his twenties, he was young for a twitcher. His grandmother had instilled a love of birds and wildlife in him at a young age. Now, he loved nothing more than to be within nature; listening for and tracking elusive birds he hadn’t seen yet.
He zoomed into the sycamore tree and clicked off a couple of shots. “Hmm, your speckles are wrong for a fieldfare. You have no red areas, so you’re not redwing. What are you?” Ben crept closer, clicking off more shots as he edged along the trail.
The bird didn’t linger long. It gave a musical chirp and fluttered to a nearby oak tree.
Ben followed, watching it chase off blackbirds. He’d become tunnel-visioned — blinded by intrigue at the mystery bird. He was so focused on the camera’s viewfinder that he’d lost his bearings. He’d walked from the wood-chipping trail. An acorn skipping beneath his feet sent him tumbling. Crying out, he felt his shoulder, head and knees all slamming into the ground as he bounced down the hillside. He struck trees and crashed through bushes until he came to a stop on a lower trail.
“Oh, you poor thing! Are you okay?” Asked a melodious, friendly voice before the dust even settled.
Ben lay on his chest gasping for breath — hurting all over. “Argh! That was a rough ride!” He tried to roll but felt a hand lay across his shoulder, preventing him.
“Just take it easy for a moment. We need to check be sure you’re okay before you move.”
Ben forced himself onto his side and felt liquid running down his face. That was all he needed to know he was bleeding. Crouching beside him, was a young lady in a cute khaki dress and brown leather cowboy boots. She had her tawny hair pulled back with a 90s style headband which suited her soft round features. “Thank you for stopping to help me,” he managed before breaking into a coughing fit.
“That’s okay. I’m Melissa.” She smiled, “Do you think you suffered any broken bones? Are neck and back hurting”
“I’m, Ben. Ahh … Erm?” Feeling no neck and spinal pain, he pulled himself into a sitting position. Pain flared in his hip and shoulder but nothing seemed broken. “Yowie! I think I nearly broke my arse and shoulder, but I’ll be okay!”
“That’s a good thing. You do have a cut to your left temple though.” Melissa reached into her handbag and withdrew some tissues. With a gentle hand, she began to stem the bleeding. “It might be a good idea to get you to the ranger’s station and have a paramedic look you over. If not I can call an ambulance from here.”
“I’m sure I can walk. I think I’ll see how I feel when I get to the station and called paramedics there if I need them.” Ben reached for his camera and binoculars. Mercifully, other than a couple of scrapes they seemed undamaged.
Melissa looked between the gadgets and Ben. “You weren’t up there spying on me, were you?”
Ben felt his heart thump at the accusation, “No! No, I … I’m a twitcher. I was following a bird I hadn’t seen before when I fell down the hillside, that’s all.”
“Really?” Melissa gave a suspicious giggle, “Prove it.”
Ben swiftly pulled-up his latest picture and handed her camera. “See, it’s definitely in the thrush family but I’m not sure what is.” He explained while watching her looking at the screen and thumbing through a few images.
“Wow, Ben. These are great photographs of a mistle thrush.” Melissa returned the camera, “You should print those it be lovely in a frame.”
“Thanks, that’s a good idea.” Ben allowed her to help him stand. It was then for the first time as she held him, that he smelled her cherry and vanilla perfume. The scent ignited something within him he’d never encountered before. A desire to be with her, a passion to love her, he realised.
“I’d be honoured to have one of your pictures.” Melissa smiled at him as they set off along the track. This one bordered a pretty lake which was home to a wide variety of waterfowl, fish, insects and wildlife. Most notable were the large flock of mute swans.
“Then we’ll arrange that,” Ben promised. “How did you know what the bird was?”
“You see the Willow bench over there. The obituary written on the back belongs to my grandmother. She brought me here every weekend as I grew up. She taught me all about the birds and wildlife here. Now, I often walk here alone just to be near her.” Melissa paused to wipe her eyes, “You see, I know her spirit still roams here in her favourite place to be.”
“That’s a sweet story. My grandmother made me a bird lover too. Seems we have a few things in common.” Ben approached the bench and read the inscription on its black plaque. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Catherine. I must say you have a wonderful granddaughter who is taking good care of me. I’ll come and say ‘hi’ when I pass by in future. Until then have a lovely day,” he said as if Melissa’s grandmother was sitting on the bench.
Melissa smiled through watery eyes when he returned to her. “That was so thoughtful of you, Ben. Thank you.”
Ben nodded as they set off again. The two chatted a little more, sharing stories and getting to know each other. They paused to point out woodpeckers, nuthatches and a flock of greenfinches. Many of which Ben managed to capture with his camera.
“Want to know a secret?” Melissa teased after a while.
It was Ben’s turn to look suspicious now, “Sure?”
“I knew you weren’t spying on me. I just needed an excuse to look at your picture.” Melissa revealed with a giggle.
“Huh! Cheeky, devil. You could have just asked,” Ben chuckled. All too soon they emerged from the nature reserve into the car park.
“We made it! How are you feeling?” Melissa asked.
“Once I’ve had a shower, I think I’ll be okay. Thanks to you looking after me.” Ben looked to his feet as nervousness took over.
“I’m glad you’ll be okay.”
“While there is one small problem.” Ben put on a troubled look.
“Really? What?” Melissa asked as they came to a stop behind a little green hatchback.
“Well, after spending such a lovely time walking back with you. I’m going to have to eat dinner alone tonight. Don’t know how I can fix that, do you?” Ben looked hopeful.
Melissa blushed and swayed on her feet. “Are you asking me out on the date, mister?”
“Just to thank you for caring for me.” Ben hoped he wasn’t been pushy. Seeing her smile, he decided to risk more, “Maybe, we could meet here for a walk from time to time too.”
“I’d like that. I’ve been alone for a fair while. It’d be lovely to have your company.” Melissa moved in front of him and they shared a kiss which seemed to linger just long enough to mean more than ‘thank you’.
As Ben left her to drive home, he felt he gotten very lucky. The fall hadn’t resulted in serious injuries or a broken camera for that matter. He’d discover a new bird for him and found a little love in the process. What could be luckier than that?
Thanks for reading, my friends, I really do appreciate it.
Have a great day!