It’s twenty to five and were I fishing then I wouldn’t be able to see my float – even against the western sky. A month until the solstice, and this week’s blow is set to give way to a proper arctic blast this coming weekend.
The natural world is responding hard, suggesting that winter is already taking a firm grip further north, and food is scarce.
Fieldfare and redwing are flocking in large number, while woodpigeon are moving en masse. At the weekend, a hawfinch appeared in the garden, one of an influx of birds from north-eastern Europe. Big billed and mildly belligerent in appearance, but shy and thin-voiced in reality.
I joined my parents’ Nature group on a trip to the Somerset Levels last week. The hope was a glimpse of a crane and we soon saw three in flight, with a further thirty on the ground. The wetland had only just begun to flood, but the murmurating golden plover already numbered several thousand and on the ground were at least as many lapwing.
A peregrine surveyed the scene, a couple of marsh harriers quartered and a great white egret flapped lazily. It was quite the spectacle, but merely an appetizer for mid-winter when over 100,000 birds will be jostling for space on that particular reserve.
We have also had golden plover closer to home, with a flock of around 200 whistling their way across the sky. There are plenty of starlings too, and 3 times in the past few weeks we have spotted a merlin – today from the comfort of the lounge.
I don’t feel quite ready for Winter. Perhaps the rather peculiar lack of fungi this autumn has left me out of sync. The pastureland has been especially barren – where normally I might find waxcaps and parasols, I have seen little other than the grasses and a late bloom of dandelions. I hope the cold doesn’t bite too hard….