Storm Erik, no relation, has blown in from the North and is busy clearing out the cobwebs. I don’t fancy working on the allotment in this wind but, with this glorious and unexpectedly warm sunshine, it’s too nice to stay in and watch the rugby. Mind you, it’s a close call.
We head south to a small village that lies a little way off the main road and set out on a walk through open farmland, accompanied by a lively and large group of finches. They are silhouetted against the sinking sun, making them tricky to identify. I have seen goldfinches in these numbers but this lot seem too big – greenfinches perhaps? Hard to tell. Hard to walk too – the wind is fierce and loud. We press on – following a line of trees that zigzag through the fields, marking boundaries and our route.
We stop to watch a group of roe deer, nine of them out in the open, foraging across the bare fields. They have spotted us, and are watching us watch them. The railway line runs not far from here, and I am fairly certain that this is the group I see from the train. We move off, and the buck takes this as his cue, with 180 degree springing turn; he leads his harem away over the black earth. The finches are back, and indeed they are greenfinches – there must be twenty or thirty of them, noisy and cheerful in the evening sun.
We reach the river, duck under the railway line and turn away from the fields along the bank, heading north again. A solitary grebe (unusual to see these without a partner), occupies the midstream, statuesque with its long white throat and impressive headgear – it seems to be seeing the day out, having perhaps eaten all it can, happy to bob along and watch the sun go down. Far away there is a huge gathering of crows – a parliament! This one perhaps a thousand strong, shifting and moving but staying close to the ground.
Secretly, I am hoping to see the barn owl but, after recent failures, I think it better not to voice this desire. What will be, will be. I am hopeful – we are entering owl season and it is not uncommon to see the magical white birds patrolling the hedgerows for food. And I have seen them here before. But not today, although I do a double take towards the gull that I catch in the corner of my eye, just in case. The wind has dropped and, all over, birds are heading to their homes now for the night. The gulls are returning en masse, high in the sky, coming from and going to I don’t where. A heron slowly makes his way upriver, while a pair of swans go in the opposite direction. Time to hunker down; although the days are noticeably lengthening, winter still has some way to go.