Sand martins hawking over the canal, swallows flying low over the sun-scorched fields. More of each than I’ve seen all summer.
The canal is half-empty, its underside exposed. A lone grey wagtail explores a patch of mud, female mallards sun themselves on a bank of shingle.
Pain makes me walk more slowly. Walking slowly makes me more attentive. I hear, for the first time on these towpath walks, the soft hhooeett hhooeett of a willow warbler. A plaintive, conspiratorial psst psst! I turn towards the sound and see, well-hidden in a hawthorn bush, a small green bird. Sunlit leaves. Sunlit bird.
Like the swallows and the sand martins, the willow warbler is a migrant from Africa. It won’t be here for long. I feel privileged to have seen it.