The frost has melted these last three days and the tracks have softened to a thick, clinging mud. Lyra returns from every walk utterly filthy. We gave her a shower and blow dry a couple of days ago (not enthusiastically received) but by lunchtime the next day she was again sporting a fine mud pack.
A trip around the winter wheat field at Kersfield two days ago set us into tracker mode. The mole there is in overdrive and all along the verge there are double rows of enormous molehills. Is he zigzagging I asked myself or operating a strict one way system with one row for going and another for coming back?? I was mulling over this burning question when a a neat semicircle of tracks, or scuff marks, in the field drew my attention. I couldn’t make anything of it and was scanning further into the field for clues when I noticed (indeed couldn’t miss) a ruddy great hole. This went down for several feet and then seemed to turn east running underneath the field. We scouted round and found a few prints nearby and my initial thinking was that this was a fox, though I couldn’t smell one and bang in the middle of a field didn’t seem a massively well hidden den. Anyhow, we marched along scanning the mud for prints. Having spotted one, a gazillion others emerged. As well as the foxy ones I could have sworn there was something bigger but time was marching on and we headed over the road and up over the stubble field (where more foxy prints abounded) before making for home. The next day Lyra was somewhat antsy in the afternoon (a sedate morning walk round the Hirsel seemed not to have burned off all her energy) so I thought we would go back to Kersfield and take a look at the path by the drainage ditch. In the summer there had been a huge burrow of some sorts there which had disappeared, likely ploughed under, in the winter wheat sowing, but I had a vague memory that it has been re-excavated a few months ago. Sure enough, there it was, even bigger than the new mystery hole, to which it lay parallel on the eastern margin of the field. More prints here, the foxy looking ones but, again, also something bigger and wider. No photos alas, the Scottish winter weather seems to drain my phone battery in a trice! Much consultation with Mr George Oogle later in the day confirmed the first prints as fox, but the larger ones seemed to have a look of badger. Apparently (pace Mr G. Oogle) this time of year it is not unknown for a fox to move into a badger sett. I wonder…
Today the forecast was for rain. I ruled the fields out as too muddy and we trooped round the road to Butterlaw. However, the rain held off and I eventually relented turning up the margin of the rabbit field. We were just in at the gate when four young deer, does I think, unravelled themselves from the hedge to the north, startled by a lorry driving along the boundary lane. They milled around uncertainly in the middle of the field, weighing up the twin risks of us at one corner and the lorry at the other. Eventually they reached consensus and made for a gap in the hedge half way between the two perils. Alas, by the time the gap was reached the lorry had rumbled around to meet them. Like good little schoolgirls they stood patiently at the gap awaiting the green man before crossing the road.
The grass in the margin was a sickly greeny yellow where it had lain under the ice and the only colour in the hedgerows came from moss and lichen. However, the sky had traces of a pearly pink, stripes of which, reflected in tractor trails, lightened up the muddy field. I had just turned back from admiring this when a movement in the hedge caught my eye. Too small for another deer I thought, maybe a hare. We tramped along and almost fell over a fawn which shot out of the hedge and made for the hill. A buck this time, I got a glimpse of velvety antler buds as he sprinted past. I was just chiding myself for mixing up a hare and a deer when a huge brown hare followed the fawn. So maybe I was not so daft.
Home again we were greeted by a deafening mooing. Lyra was promptly parked in the kitchen and I went off to investigate. Keith and Lachlan were rolling a new bale of straw down the hill towards the big gate and the coos were bellowing encouragement from the field, prancing up and down in excitement. I went down to perform my traditional role of gate keeper, cow shooer and official photographer. The exercise performed efficiently, despite much cow incursion, we repaired to the kitchen leaving some extremely happy cows munching away at the new bale. Since then the rain has been relentless. I am now plugged in to A Tale of Two Cities and racing through an everyday jumper for Lachlan, who has worn his Christmas one incessantly since the 25th (which, whilst flattering, is not so good for the article in question). There’s something slightly catching about the Dickensian cadence so apologies to all if this sounds a little odd.