I like about where I live that it has a great train service, isn’t traffic-wrecked, has all the basic shops and is near the Thames. I’ve just walked down the Thames to Kingston, for non-daily shopping, for exercise and to practise the walking tecnhique demonstrated by Joanna Hall in a Guardian guide and on a video on their site.
It was dull and drizzling and the river was magical. Coming on the water when you emerge from asphalt, brick and concrete is restorative. The river was moving, not fast but not stagnant either; it was lazy and dirty-looking, and alive with slight changes -- surface, ripples, waves and strange movements. The river is broad here and the other bank seemed distant.
There were no birds in the air. The gulls were lined up on the boats, with the odd one on the water. A single swan glided in the distance. A single cormorant was nearer in. The main body of swans and geese were around the bridge where the RIver Hogsmill comes in, and where young children and their mothers throw bread for them.
There were three grebes, a pair and a single bird some way off. I stopped to watch the pair. The male, a few yards from his mate, picked up some floating weed in his beak and swam back. They then went into a courtship display, raising themselves up and waving their necks. The weed seemed to be for waving; after a while it was dropped and the two relapsed into just sitting, and keeping an eye on a gull that was getting a bit close.
You don’t see this by the garages outside my back window, though in the recent snow I did see a flock of redwings -- a first for me, calling for the bird book and a phone call to a knowledgeable friend.