Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Winter and Wildlife


The air smells of frost & there is already a glistening of ice in the half-moonlight; the heavens and ground glitter alike with stars. Through the cold, hard December darkness, comes the call of a dog fox, sharp as the night air. Short. Twice. Carried by the cold. He does not linger. Sometime in a few days or weeks, I'd expect his staccato call will be answered by the vixen's drawn out cry. Slowly, yet undoubtedly, tangibly, the year is turning.

Pinprick stars populate the night sky as if light were shining through moth-holes in a black out curtain, blinking as the material shifts, breathes. I count those I can see beyond my window; the Plough is tilted & hangs suspended at an angle, Orion has crept out of sight over the roof of the house. 

Wildlife will be risky & bold tomorrow; hungry & cold.


A frost so heavy & hard it holds still branch & air, binding all to all, leaf to leaf & leaf to ground. Our warm breath melts the air ahead. The landscape seems subdued, as if holding its breath and waiting for the weak sun to share it's meagre warmth and free it from it's iron-ice cage. 

The dawn sun brushes all with an alchemist's touch, turning white base metal to blazing gold.

Goldfinches, perched on just those highest branches the sun's caress first reaches, sing brightly, their melody as high and sweet as the sound of falling icicles. 

Two redwings sit in the topmost branches of the tallest ash, looking out across the frozen fields like sailors from the rigging across the sea.
Cattle huff and shuffle around the feeders, a blanket of frost unmelted on their backs. 

Grey wagtail paddles and potters, tail-bobbing, along the edge of the stream. Her world flows, unbound. 
Her pied cousin is perched atop a plough-rut castle, perusing his clumps and furrows, and preening his feathers, tail-bobbing. 
Blue tit calls, great tit responds. Blacksmiths hammer; blackbirds with their fire hued bills working on frozen ivy berries. 
Distant, hesitant. I think I hear the first tuning whistles of the song thrush rehearsing for his role as newly appointed town cryer come the fickle spring, but he notices when I stop to listen and quells his voice.
The woodpecker is not so shy, and boldly beats out his percussive rhythm on the old oak tree. Another responds like an echo.

Wood pigeons clap, startled overhead, and pheasant crows in alarm from the woodland edge. Do they start at my passing, or has the fox returned from his night-life unseen, silent, light of step so as his paws barely soften the frost in his wake?

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