Tony, an octogenarian still playing tennis at Lytham, ducked in alarm as a dark shadow swooped low across the grass courts.
“What the devil?” he exclaimed, missing his trademark drop-volley.
It was an exotic bird of prey, a Turkey Vulture from South America. Local bird-fanciers now think it more likely to have escaped from a falconry show, rather than straying from Ecuador.
“It was waiting by the tennis pavilion this morning,” said club coach Luci. “It flapped these massive wings – gave me quite a turn!”
Other members were upset as the visitor was harassed by a gang of crows, which naturally saw their giant, distant relative as a threat.
The rare vulture was first sighted in local beauty spot Witch Wood, days before.
I spotted it resting in the shade, perhaps recovering from another scrap with local crows. It, too, was black but had a striking red head and stood several times taller.
The bird didn’t look too happy and, fearing it injured, I quietly back-tracked. Now the vulture appears to have taken again to the skies, restored from its Fylde coast sojourn.
Sudden confrontations with the wild can be startling.
I remember walking home years ago across fields, after an evening at the old Plough in Staining. Darkness fell and I was struggling to find my way on a rough track, with shoes sticking in mud.
Then a deep guttural roar rent the air. Its power and closeness chilled the blood.
Common sense told me it was a restless lion at the zoo, which I must have strayed close to. However, I was still greatly relieved to finally emerge safely by Stanley Park.
Such encounters remind us, with a thrill, that life and nature are far greater than ourselves. The realisation is humbling but also inspiring . . .
Tony’s now playing with renewed gusto - since that vulture passed him by.
n For books and more muses from Roy, visit www.royedmonds-blackpool.com