The frosts continued. Dot the Dog was pleased to be able to go over the fields without sinking into liquid mud – all was frozen solid.
Then the rains came back with Storm Fergus. High winds brought down a bit of tree debris but nothing big enough to do any damage. Local roads flooded to a small extent, and Dot the Dog needed a good hosing down for several days after her walks. I suppose it must be winter
The geese came back in numbers to overnight in the small flood-field. We saw something we hadn't seen before – one morning (between torrents of rain) there was a kestrel hovering over the field beside Whirley School and it was approached by another bird that I initially thought was a large crow come to mob it. However, bird two proved to be another kestrel and they hovered in harmony some fifteen to twenty feet apart for a few minutes before flying off to pastures new, having caught nothing.
Mrs Sparrow-Hawk resumed her habit of sitting on top of the bird feeders. She really is magnificent with slaty upper plumage and whitish breast and we had a good view from the kitchen window. Unfortunately, when I went to get my phone to take a photo, she must have seen the movement and flew off.
The weekend before Christmas – so many houses looking jolly and neighbours abandoning cars to deliver cards on foot! Meanwhile there were a few mild and even sunny days – a breeze dried out the fields a bit so no need to hose down DtD on her return home from her walks. On the first sunny morning a buzzard sought a thermal upcurrent but was chased off by the gulls, but next day it soared (and mewed) unmolested – and it was so high as to be almost invisible. Its call must be very penetrating to be clearly audible even when the bird itself is pretty well out of sight. One of the kestrels flew fast and low over the fields heading for better hunting. The guns banged at a shoot – probably at Henbury Hall judging by the direction of the reports. An evening waxing moon picked out surrounding cloud in a rather lovely monochrome – again, I was too slow getting the phone for a picture!
In good time for Christmas the weather deteriorated again. A strong breeze blew up (and a yellow weather warning of wind appeared for the shortest day). We watched several groups of corvids enjoying themselves (what other motive could they have had?) doing aerobatics over the fields. Speaking of corvids we also heard the raven – we couldn't see it but it sounded as if it were perched in one of the high trees on Anderton's Lane near the entrance to the cottage track.
Christmas Day dawned a bit lighter grey than in the run-up but still looked rather gloomy apart from the array of lights people had put up outside their homes or that could be glimpsed through open-curtained windows. We paused to watch a kestrel on the ground – having caught its breakfast it was obviously preparing it to eat; it eventually spotted us and headed (with its meal) into one of the trees by Moss Cottage. Father Dogmas brought Dot the Dog a new extending lead (not exactly a hit) and a large selection of doggie treats (definite hit!). Boxing Day was a delight – Dot the Dog and I walked in sunshine morning and afternoon over the fields – although DtD was not too pleased about the "bucket-baths" that followed because of the standing water and mud. Background sound effects were provided once again by a nearby shoot.
After that Storm "Gerrit" arrived – and we "gorrit" – "geddit"? Not much obvious storm damage although a sycamore branch that had part fallen from the old tree at the bottom of our garden some years ago and had become lodged in the lower branches of the same tree finally came to earth.
All this while the kestrel was in action quartering the fields high up or again flying low and fast at hedgetop height in search of more productive hunting grounds.
The day before New Year's Eve started wet and windy. When I got up I opened the back door to let DtD out into the garden – she ventured as far as exposing her nose and front paws and turned round and came back into the kitchen. However her enthusiasm was rekindled once I had donned my waterpoofs and wellies and picked up her lead.
Things began to move fast in the paddock. The spring is to be fenced and bulrushes planted, the gaps in the hedges had been planted up, preparations were under way for laying land drains and fruit trees are to be planted and it seems the venerable resident Fordson tractor is to have some work done on it.
I'm writing this last paragraph on a sunny but chilly New Yer's morning – so if you have managed to read this far, Dot the Dog and I hope you had a lovely Christmas and that 2024 will be a happy and healthy one for you. Don't forget it's a leap year!
Horrid of Henbury