Wednesday, 7 November 2012

A Glorious Morning

I woke yesterday morning to bright sunshine reflecting off a white frost. The temperature was surely close to freezing; the water in the bird bath had frozen solid and the soil in the flower beads was hard. The grass, white and crispy, crunched beneath my feet as I topped up and re-hung the bird feeders. I had to breathe on my fingers to warm them up as I headed back indoors. I had hardly shut the door before blue tits were dashing back and forth between bird feeder and bushes, house sparrows gripped the slippery perches, pecking at sunflower hearts. The tinkling calls of goldfinches could be heard in the tree tops and raucous starlings squabbled over the half-coconut-shells, burying their sharp beaks into the energy rich fat.
Half an hour later I was heading through the housing estate and out onto the farm track. Blackbirds rummaged through crunchy leaf litter and crowds of corvids wheeled over the fields, tumbling down to feed on the cattle fodder. Starlings joined them from chattering groups perched in the high branches of the hedgerow oaks. Sparrows and finches sipped melt water from iced puddles that had formed in wheel ruts. 
In the farm yard and around the buildings, birds gathered in search of warm shelter, and frost-free food. The open face of the silage clamp attracted numerous small birds; chaffinches, sparrows and pied wagtails. Jackdaws called and flapped, tugging at the maze silage meant for winter cattle feed. Pheasants strutted along the top of the silage mountain, joined for a while by a pair of red-legged partridges drawn in from the fields by the promise of easy pickings. 
Beyond the bend by the old dairy, where stray wisps of straw blow on the wind and portly wood pigeons perch on the roof ridge, the track passes a terrace of brick cottages where in the summer washing blow-dries on lines strung across the garden, and at night spaniels bark from kennels at the scent of foxes passing unseen in the dark. Chickens, seemingly bemused by the sudden cold and frozen ground, huddled in a group by the thick hedge, preening feathers and awaiting their morning feed. Two adventurous kittens, fur as black as ink, peered from between stacked hay-bales at the edge of the field opposite the cottages, wary of strange humans. 
The day was beginning to warm slightly, and the once diamond frost was slowly lifting as steam from fence rail and rooftop, rising towards a bluest of skies, but all the same I was glad to wrap my hands around a hot cup of tea on my return home. 6th of November, the day after bonfire night, and the first truly cold day of the winter. 

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