Saturday, 28 April 2018

Local patch 29

Suddenly, this week, there are more swallows. Along the drove road this morning, they are skimming low across the meadows in pairs and triplets. They surf the tops of the new grass, weaving between the cattle, between their legs and under their bellies, before peeling off and up high into the sky. Each swooping pass rewards them with beaks full of insects. They tip and turn, agile in the soft air, elegant tails flexing and shape-shifting. Extravagant joy.

Further along, I stop to watch a roe deer munching on the stems in the rhyne. This small, elegant native deer was extinct in England by the 1800s. Tree planting schemes brought it back and it is now widespread once more. I can see its distinctive black nose, large, dark-fringed ears and small white scut. We lock eyes and it doesn't twitch a whisker. Several heartbeats later it has melted into the dawn. Pure joy.

Unusually this spring, in the field at the end of our garden, young cattle have been turned out. For the first 24 hours they dashed around their new kingdom in a boisterous, sturdy gang. Everything was new and fresh. Heady with excitement, they huffed softly on the other side of the fence, pranced and danced, crazy with joy.

In the garden, the birds are busy. Great tits are again feeding young in the nest box in the ivy-covered plum tree. There are blue tits in and out of the new box in the old walnut tree. The reed buntings, who joined us last month when their reedy home was shuddering with snow, have decided they like it here and are still around. They seem to have joined forces with the city of sparrows that live in the bramble and nettle on the wall. Last into leaf, the walnut does now have a haze of fresh green and rusty leaves. A tree creeper has been examining its deeply cracked bark and mossy trunk this week - please stay! We haven't seen you here before. Rooks, with their great bony faces and funny, raggedy trousers, flap and dangle from the walnut's trembling twigs. One of the pack bashes the feeders, scattering the seed onto the ground where seven or eight others, together with a handful of bouncing jackdaws, quickly clean up. It's a rout!

Our mornings are loud with birds now. Three stood out against the crowd this week: chiff chaffs created a wall of sound; a grasshopper warbler added its whirring, churring call and finally, joyfully - the cuckoo shouted its confirmation that spring is underway.
At last.

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