I did not jump out of bed with joy as my alarm clock rang at 5.30am. It is not the best time of the morning for me. I bumbled around the kitchen, knocking things over and shouting, “shut up,” at the alarm clock when it decided to ring all over again. But the moment I left the house I knew I was pleased I had made the effort.
It was pre-dawn, so few people see this time of the morning, less and less people I suspect, now that milkmen, early morning post, and paperboys are a thing of the past. I have signed up to one of the few jobs that require an early start, breeding bird surveys. All round the country at this time of year, other people are crawling out of bed, making flasks of coffee and dragging out clipboards filled with obscure maps of fields which they need to navigate their way through.
Possibly due to the early start the navigating proved a little tricky. Having received specific instructions from a helpful farmer I still took a wrong turn and drove my intrepid Nissan Micra down a sheep track onto the marshes. Just as I was struggling into my wellies, a vision appeared through the mist. A rather handsome, open shirted man on a tractor who turned to be the farmers son. Considering the hour and that I was clearly in the wrong place, he was very charming and directed me back out of his sheep fields and to the right spot.
By the time I reached the first field, the sun was just rising above the trees and a thick mist lay across the meadow. Avocets took to the air, twenty beautiful, delicate birds with neatly held pointed toes, piping overhead. Lapwings could be seen, whooping and descending across the scrapes, plummeting earthwards calling their liquid fluting song. Redshank strutted between tussocks of grass, oystercatchers stared out across mirror calm pools in companionable silence.
I have been commissioned to conduct surveys on farmland across the North Kent Marshes all summer. I had been told that I wasn’t expected to find much. I had been warned that the early starts were painful, that the farmers might be wary, but I also knew that here was an incentive to get out to see beautiful sunrises in places I would never normally get permission to go. I have done many boring and difficult jobs in my time. I know when I am lucky.
By 8am my days work was over and I was back home cooking up a big batch of pancakes and looking forward to tomorrows early start.