Bel Mooney's article in Daily Mail Saturday 2nd June

Bittern flying over the Avalon Marshes

Bittern flying over the Avalon Marshes

How often do I encourage you to try new things?

With this in mind, Robin and I set off for a two-night, bird-watching holiday in Somerset. If you'd told me ten years ago that I'd willingly rise at 6.30am on a chilly morning and tramp off through damp grass in search of birds, I'd have smiled: 'Not me!' Yet how glorious that we can evolve as we grow older, that the 'me' can change.

There we were, on the Somerset Levels, with passionate birdwatchers Graeme Mitchell and Stephen Moss (see listening hard for a cuckoo. A naturalist and broadcaster, Stephen writes for this paper from time to time, and I had reviewed two of his excellent books, but never met him. He and Graeme were the ideal guides (patient, humorous, kind and expert) to introduce us to birdwatching — even though the conversation often went like this:

'Look Bel, can you see it?'

'Um … No?'

'Just there, on the right past the big twig.'

'Errrr … No … Oh, I think so …. '

For this fledgling birdwatcher it was a magical experience. Near Glastonbury Tor we saw egrets, heard the deep boom of a distant bittern and watched a cuckoo calling.

We learned about bird names and song, visited RSPB hides, and were delighted to enter this wonderful world of enthusiasts. Even when the rain began it didn't matter, for I'd passed into a 'zone' of peace, equally entranced by the distant sight of a flock of godwits, the gleam of damselflies in the thigh-high reeds and a showy Mandarin duck on Cheddar reservoir.

The birds, of course, have no idea they give us so much delight. Yet they demand we pay attention. At the end of the trip, Stephen and Graeme listed 84 species we had seen and heard, but exciting though that was, it didn't matter.

I just felt humble that these beautiful feathered creatures were all around — with more right to that landscape than we had. And grateful for their power to transform.

Graeme Mitchell