Occasional Notes from a Dog Walker
Storm Ciaran continued – more rain, standing water of some depth over the fields and in our garden. Fortunately the winds were quite light compared with some areas, but still a few small branches came down.
Work in the paddock went on – the star performer was a small elderly Ford tractor, only a bit more modern than the stuff of my Suffolk childhood, when "Fergies" were the common workhorse. Nowadays the ones you meet on the road all seem to be "John Deere" and they take up not only their own carriageway but also half of the opposite one!
Mrs Sparrow-Hawk continued her incursions – Mr S-H is rarely seen. The ever-shy wren appeared briefly and escaped attention. The local birds scoffed 3kg of sunflower hearts in a week – fattening up for the winter!
More and more wet weather followed – torrential rain at times. The birds fed even more enthusiastically and unusual visitors came including a rather magnificent bullfinch – we usually see him only in spring together with his wife when they have a brood to feed. The goldies and tits and sparrows and dunnocks all ate their share. Woodpeckers came and the starlings reappeared.
In the paddock more trees came down and new fencing came up. Meanwhile in the fields a large tracked vehicle arrived and an array of small red flags had been placed – refurbishing the drains perhaps – or surveying the ground for another few hundred houses..?
The grim and grisly weather continued and encouraged the garden birds to feed. In one week they had polished off 3Kg of seed – and the next they managed a prodigious 5Kg! Mrs Sparrow-Hawk has realised she has an easy source of ready meals. She has however changed her tactics. Instead of swooping in from the open gardens to the south she now comes in from the north, through the fairly narrow gap between the houses, so her prey gets less warning.
One Saturday morning mid-month we woke to a fairly hard frost with dazzling sunshine and a clear blue sky. Walking from Andertons Lane along the track to Moss Cottage was a real treat. A low mist hung over the fields with church spire, treetops and the ridges of house rooftops visible above it. The whole scene was reminiscent of the opening of an Agatha Christie thriller – especially since a brace of ducks were dabbling on the small field-flood, which stood in beautifully as village pond. Any nominations for the rôle of Miss Marple (I have my own ideas)?
The following day storm Debi moved in. Neither DtD nor I fancied a long walk in a gale with a torrent of rain pouring down on us, so a quick whizz and a relaxing drying off sufficed.
One morning the kestrel hovered briefly but was rapidly chased off by a very aggressive gull. A few days later it reappeared, not this time mobbed, and quartered the field for several minutes before moving off to another venue.
Wet seemed to be the "theme of the month". The garden birds, instead of queueing on the feeders, made swift darts from the bushes and beech hedge to grab some seed and rapidly scuttled back. The exception was the greedy starlings – they gathered, seven or eight at a time, on the bird table and gorged what they could.
Mrs Sparrow-Hawk took to sitting in finer mornings on top of the pole from which the feeders hang. The smaller birds were discouraged!
Some sunny days. Despite the apparent cold a buzzard seemed to find a thermal current on which to circle upward. A day or two later came a real frost. It was a pleasure walking Dot the Dog over frozen grass and mud – no need for a hose-down on getting home! Amazingly, Anderton's Lane had been gritted. At this time of year the sun never rises above the ridge of our roof, so the front garden never sees it and the frost lingered all day. The red flowers on the autumn sedum glistened with ice crystals.
More frosty mornings followed – for the first time this year I wore full winter gear – hat, gloves, thick jacket – Dot the Dog managed in her winter coat and found the frost between her toes hugely exciting!
The first really cold morning was magical – all white and bright. The oak trees that had stubbornly clung on to their brown and yellow leaves began to drop them one by one, drifting down gently in the still air on to the frozen grass beneath.
Walking along the track to the cottages, old flower heads on rushes and cow parsley glistened white and where scrambling plants had grown up the stock fencing there was almost a crystalline hedge. Even the barbed wire looked quite beautiful, picked out by frost. In our garden a fennel plant stood three feet high, bright white instead of the dull brown of a few days previously.
More frost forecast to follow and so into December.
Horrid of Henbury