At just 7km from the city centre, the forest reserve at Morysin is a wonderful sanctuary in bucolic surrounds. Enveloped by the sounds of nature, it’s hard to believe you’re this close to the busy-ness of Warsaw. This is the beauty of Warsaw, indeed of any city worth its salt, that it incorporates the country within it and not just on its fringes.

It’s April 10th and I have found a dirt track across a field (the aptly named Trojpolowa ’between the fields’ ). It leads down to Kanal Sobieskiego which borders the west side of the forested reserve. I haven’t seen a soul since coming off the warehoused Zawodzie opposite Siekierki Power Plant. The rush of the water across a small dam fills the area with sound. On one side of the canal sits a freshly ploughed open field, on the other stand the tall still bare trees of the reserve. Just then, I see a flutter of blue, a flash of inflorescence, skiting across the water from the bank I‘m standing over. I am momentarily bemused before I realise it’s a kingfisher! I watch it fly along and across the canal, some 100 or so metres, until it sets down on some unadorned branches at the confluence of the Kanal Wilanowka which borders the west side of the reserve. There’s another bird hidden in there amongst the web of branches. Fortunately, there is little leaf cover. I can make out a large reddish brown breast. It’s another kingfisher. The first one, the male, does a quick dance from branch to branch before mounting it for a few delicate seconds. Then, it’s off back down the kanal, right past my eyes in a slow shout of blue and green, away into the distance. The female hasn’t moved. It sits there for another fifteen minutes before spotting something in the water and going for it. It perches now on one of the more outward branches giving me a perfect look at its delicate multicoloured coat and its perfectly pointed mandible. What a beauty! It recalls the sheer purity of the starling’s oily ‘skin’ I had my eyes on last week in Lazienki. Beauty is something philosophers have struggled over for ages. I find it inextricably connected with birds, for their movement, their work, their agility, their tiny muscles all coordinating perfectly, their synchronicity with the seasons, their rather rapid and unadorned coupling, their insinuation into it all. Their beauty is not just an externality, it is there inside too. They have a grace of space that most humans have long lost contact with. A grace that is in itself a beauty. They work this earth, this air, the waters, enthusiastically. It is this, this communion with nature, this inextricable binding with it, that is the real passion, that is a truly erotic religion.

Skirting the Kanal Sobieskiego, serenaded by the birdsong of warblers and tits, I pass some dead trees whose fallen bodies are slowly being assimilated by the forest moss and fungus. As I train the binoculars on a small willow warbler seated on a low branch I am aware that something else has just moved into the field of view. At first I think it a dog which will soon be followed by its irresponsible owner, but as I drop the bins to take stock I see that it’s a fox, thin, auburn, with that wild, pointed face, eyes steadied and staring. For a moment our gazes interlock, then it darts to one side and is quickly lost in the undergrowth.

I continue skirting the path past some ’dzialki’ (allotments) until I am directly opposite the Wilanow Palace grounds. Nearby, on a little prow of land jutting out into Jezioro Wilanowska, a green woodpecker (whose yaffle I had heard a minute or so previous) flies over my head and lands on the short grass about ten metres in front of me. A fine entanglement of twigs and branches conceals me for the moment, but I can see it perfectly. It’s a male (it has a red stripe under its eye). Its beautiful pear green coat blends well with the grass, but it’s that sharp red crown that stands out, and those eyes. Then, just to the left of it I spot the female. Again, it’s a clamber-on clamber-off affair of some rapidity. When it’s done, they continue to work the ground together quite the thing. Like the kingfisher, the green woodpecker (as well as that wonderful laughing yaffle) has exuberant colours. It’s yellow-circled beady eye is all aware. As it forages, its head twists upwards as its eye quickly scans its surrounds. The pair of them work the ground quite contentedly.

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