Cycling along the abandoned canal on my way to work, a flash of electric blue catches my eye, describing rapid but gentle parabolas from overhanging willow bough to ivy-clad birch branch.
I am pleased. Although not especially rare, they are evasive and seldom seen, particularly on a canal, even one that is relatively unused by anyone other than cyclists and dog-feaces depositors. I stop my bike for a moment, and watch enraptured as it doesn't immediately disappear, maybe being a little more used to wandering bipeds than most others of its kind. Still though, it is only visible for a second or two at a time.
Its dazzling plumage is at odds with its inherent shyness, as if embarrassed by its own splendour. No artist has ever created a colour so full of vivid life, so effortlessly natural and yet so striking. It is a humbling exercise in the superior achievement of unconscious selection over the ever-striving efforts of our intellectual and artistic endeavours.
Luckily, to capture the moment, I am a modern human, with all the advantages of superior technology that allow me to share this image, perhaps save a small, frozen portion of this ephemeral scene with other members of my species. With you, my friends, with you. We are a creature that generally uses sight as our prominent sense, and and this is reflected in our tools.
I take out my phone, thinking of the adverts where opportunistic photographers take super-sharp images for posterity, whipping out their handsets and snap!, capturing the elusive snow leopard or plummeting falcon and winning awards from the BBC and National Geographic for their efforts.
Oh . . . kay.
Too fast. I have to be patient. There it is again. Try another one but hold the phone still.
Missed it. Damn. The bird was moving too quickly this time. Bloody thing.Try again.
Arse. Low light levels, that one. Hang on, it's flying again, quick!
Oh sod it. Have some ducks in a line on high zoom instead:
Brown they are. Very, very brown, and not at all shy about letting you know it. Now to wait for National Geographic to get in touch. I'll see you at the exhibition.