The long-awaited daffodils are over, succeeded at the roadside by dandelions, forget-me-nots and banks of pale primroses. Hawthorn and May have begun to blossom in the thick hedgerows. Beyond them, the fields form a patchwork of lush green and the acid yellow of oil seed rape in flower. The sky is a bright, unbroken blue.
The sun has finally returned – and I think for a moment of those who lit fires at midwinter, bless them for building those beacons high. I am always a little giddy when the season turns. I touch the new leaves on trees like a blessing, walk barefoot on the new grass, sit beneath the flowering currant with closed eyes and hear the bees humming all around.
I love summer – and this feels like summer. I long to bask in the sunshine, bare-skinned, soaking up warmth like a lizard. I am fair, though, and burn tomato-red – so I slather sunscreen, thinking of Baz Luhrmann, and wear a hat. For my first day’s shorebird wardening I walk onto the beach sporting a large straw sunhat tied on – after a runaway hat dash in the dunes – with a cotton scarf. So far, so Agatha Christie.
It is a May bank holiday, the hottest in years. Emerging from the dunes, I pause for a moment – take in the swathe of golden sand, deep blue ribbon of sea, cerulean sky above. Breathe in. Taste salt. The beach is busier than I have ever seen it – holidaymakers heeding the call of buckets and spades and a day by the seaside. We exchange smiles as I pass, say hello. It seems none of us are tired of commenting on the weather in tones of joy and disbelief. Isn’t it incredible?
The crowds thin as I walk further along the beach, my eyes peeled for the boundary fence that we erected a fortnight ago. It appears, gradually, a frail line of matchsticks increasing in size until I see the sessile rope between them. A figure emerges from the dunes. I raise a hand in salute, quicken my pace. It is K, walking barefoot through the sand to meet me. She lifts the rope for me to pass, and I follow her up to the boundary of beach and dune. There is a tent there, and a telescope trained on the netted area further along the shore. I ease off my rucksack – heavier now after the forty minute walk – say hello to the bundled, sun-shielded figure beside the telescope. What news of the birds?
I listen, open my bag for binoculars, follow K’s pointing finger. There a ringed plover – and look, above the water, Sandwich terns. I watch them dive, bright white figures in the sunlight, smile. I am beginning to recognise their call.