Sue came back from her walk a couple of days ago and tapped on the window excitedly. I slipped my wellies on and nipped outside to find her cupping her hands to her ears and grinning.
I tuned in and heard it immediately. ‘Ke-ke-ke-ke-ke‘. We used to hear it regularly, when a pair nested on the pylons to the south of the cottage. This year though, the call of the peregrine cuts through the winter air with a thumping resonance. It is a sound unusual. In fact, with December nearly over, this is probably the first peregrine we have seen from the garden all year.
I grab my binoculars and camera and nip up the footpath for a closer look.
The peregrine is airborne and still calling. It swings repeatedly toward the same patch of pasture before resting on a fence post. On the ground is the source of its chatter. A second bird sitting among a scatter of feathers. It’s woodpigeon for dinner and someone is unwilling to share.
The first bird is up again and I try and get a few shots, but as it pumps directly overhead, I ditch the camera to instead enjoy the spectacle.
I’ve not seen either peregrine in the days since, but there is plenty happening through the short of the winter day. A quick zip up the valley to the doctor’s surgery can offer all kinds of treats. If you drive slowly enough….
The yellowhammers are flocking. We had a dozen in the hedge at the bottom of the garden yesterday, while four times that number were searching for spillages outside the grain store at the end of the lane.
Little egrets are ever-present through the winter, with at least three individuals currently plundering the bullhead population of the tiny River Wyn.
And the buzzards are never far away. Conserving energy in the cold and hunting hard from the tops of the telegraph poles.
The individual birds become increasingly familiar, as do their habits. This female (I presume due to her size relative to her mate) has lived in the valley for longer than us. I’m not quite sure what she had her eye on, but it wasn’t enough for her to stretch her wings.
And away from the wildlife is the landscape. And if you slowdown and let yourself see, beauty shows itself in the tiniest of corners.
I walked a short distance along a bridleway, keen to find a decent viewpoint of the down where I saw a male hen harrier a fortnight since. As I paused beside a gate, and kicked off each welly to hoik my socks back over my heels, I noticed the line of thorns slinking along the field edge. Gnarled and defiant against the wind, here and there the bark shimmered as it bounced back the low winter sun.
The solstice is almost upon us, and our annual fortnight’s flurry will follow. Let us hope it is fun.