Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Shades of Winter

I saw my first redwings of the winter yesterday, feasting on scarlet berries in a huge dark yew tree. A flurry of movement caught my eye and through my binoculars I could make out the distinctive eye-stripe and russet patches under their wings as they flapped and tugged at the bright berries, clinging to dark fronded branches that drooped from the weight of recent rain.  
I was pleased to see them, to welcome them to their wintering grounds and feel the excitement of a first sighting, and yet it was a sighting tinged with a certain amount of sadness. 
It was a sign that the cold dark winter was approaching quickly and autumn’s glory was starting to fade. 

The weather has been damp, full of clinging mist that leaves all with a wet sheen, muting the colours of the autumn trees and stubble fields, and stringing cobwebs with glinting droplets that tumble and fall when touched by the wind or knocked by passing boot. 

And yet, if you look hard enough, even on the dreariest, dampest winter’s day, there is colour and life to be found. The red-breasted robin that sings so sweetly from the scarcely clad hedgerow, the scarlet berries of the holly, and the canary-flash of the goldfinches’ wings as they flit from garden feeder or silver thistle heads.
In the evenings there’s pink streaks or orange splashes across the sky, like the coloured washes from an artist’s brush, from where the red ball of the sun slowly sinks behind the hills. 

The weather forecasters are predictioning a fall in temperatures at the end of the week, accompanied by strong north-north east winds from the Arctic. These air movements should be good news for birdwatchers. The last few stragglers of summer migrants with quickly head south across the channel, but they will be replaced by other birds such as thrushes and geese, from the Arctic circle, Scandinavia and Northern Europe.  I will be watching for fieldfares to join the redwings, and listening out for reports of migratory geese and swans, and influxes of birds arriving on the north-east coast. 
...I wonder if it will be a Waxwing Year?


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