Twitchery

Bird watching proper has never really appealed. There seems to be far to much lurking in hides for my taste, but our hedgerows are thronged with the little peeping, chucking and warbling fellows and I have been feeling rather remiss in not learning their names. To this end I reclaimed a giant bird book from Mum the other day and gave it a good peruse over cake and coffee. Armed with a number of “tell tale markings” I have been peering more closely than of yore at the birds darting to and fro on our morning walks. Wednesday proved gloriously bright and clear. As we climbed the stubble field towards Butterlaw the sky was filled with a large flock of birds swooping and diving. From my vantage point directly below them I got a pretty good look at the undercarriage which was a pale honey colour so I am marking these ones down as likely field fare, though the linnet is also a possibility. The hedgerow birds continue to elude identification (other than the blackbirds) due to their endless skittering about. I suspect there are plenty of little dunnocks but I am wondering if we might not have a few warblers in there as well. If they would only line up and wait quietly til I find the right page….

Anyhoo, it was a glorious morning. Sun high, hardly a cloud and just a pleasing snap to the air. There’s a mature ash tree on the corner of what I now think of as the deer’s stubble field with a gloriously witchy and unkempt air and what appears to be the den of a larger animal (fox or badger) in its roots. Increasingly our ash trees are succumbing to die back and being replaced with other species (oak seems to be the favourite so I especially cherish this one and it has been endlessly photographed. No deer that day, but a very unexpected treat as we headed along the back road. Turning to look through the hole in the fence (as one does) I spotted a young fox sprinting across the field with what looked like a hen pheasant firmly clamped in its jaws. I have occasionally smelled fox on the road but never seen one and it is unusual for one to be about in the open in the middle of the day. However, it seems that the shoot on Tuesday had left a bird “unaccounted for” and I wonder if this proved just a temptation too much for a cheeky juvenile fox. I tipped my hat, admiring his (or her) chutzpah, and crossed my fingers for the rest of the season.

Much less sunny today, but we saw a pair of swans overhead as we passed the compost bins. They are almost as graceful in flight as they are on the water, but the noisy honking does slightly undermine the image (like the thud, thud clunking of the blocks in the corps de ballet’s slippers). Dawdling alone the lane I had a good boggle in the hedges. The leaves have gone now and there is a vast array of nests to be inspected. It feels slightly prurient, as if the facade of a tenement block had been removed without warning to the residents, to allow one to peer into all their rooms. There was everything from thrown together twiggeries large and small to a very plush moss covered snuggery. However the prize went to a perfectly constructed half globe edged in sedge grass and now cunningly converted to act as a fruit bowl. Well done that bird!

It was a longer walk than usual today as a ditch clearing exercise has turned a simple step over indentation into an oxter high, mud lined gulley with water running at the bottom. I balked at crossing this so we resolved to go round. This gave us an unaccustomed view of the back of a narrow shelter belt. There is a HUGE rabbit warren there, extending almost the length of the field. Lyra was in a state of near bliss at the smell (even though no bunnies actually emerged). The ditch went on and on and two fields later with still no end in sight there was nothing for it but to jump down (more like a hippo than a gazelle) and wrangle up the other side as best I could (Lyra had no bother and seemed bemused by my struggles). Two does peered back through the hedge to laugh at me before bounding off. I live to serve….

Back on the road it seemed that we had hit the Butterlaw rush hour. We had just finished giving the parcel force van a cheery wave when Tom cruised up and pulled over for a chat. When Tom pulled away there was chap in a cap in a white and red pick up to wave at and then blue van man. Madness! We turned off the road in disgust and came back via the alpaca field. Those hair cuts get sillier every time I look – though my mother of teenagers fashion correspondent advises me that footballer perms are back in (why???? Has no-one learned anything since Kevin Keegan???) . Interestingly, on clocking Lyra the alpacas firstly looked at the Ryeland sheep in the next field and then came over, not for a friendly sniff, but rather to exude “this is our turf”. I have read somewhere that if you have an alpaca in with your sheep they will deter foxes. I wonder if that was what was happening there? Lyra is good friends with the sheep, so perhaps we need to effect introductions.

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