Grey. That just about sums up the last few days. Near constant rain, from drizzle to downpour the clouds have been abandoning their passengers over the South East corner of England. The damp seeps into your bones when weather like this settles in for an unwelcome stay. Sunday morning promised nothing more than more of the same, a continuing, moisture ridden theme. The dawn was grey, leaden skies heavy with the expectation of sudden downpours deadened the sunrise to a lighter patch of grey on the dark grey horizon. As the day lightened the consequences of three days continuous rain showed as pools of quicksilver against the dripping ground. The mournful cries of curlews haunted the marsh, here and there the harsh rasp of a hidden snipe and the hoarse quack of mallard, a slightly melancholy chorus with just the soft peep of meadow pipits to provide a counterpoint.
Perhaps because of the damp I felt colder this week than in last Sunday's icy snow and I couldn't seem to shake the chill from my body. That was quickly forgotten though when I heard a familiar cry above me; The kek-kek-kek of a peregrine, and there, grey on grey storm, the unmistakeable bow shaped sillhouette tore across the sky. He circled and was joined by a second bird, this time a larger female. Together they continued to play the wind with consumate ease until, at an unknown stimulus, they raced into the distance and the dance was over.
That encounter made me feel considerably brighter, a peregrine is a magnificent bird always guaranteed to send a tingle down the spine and bring excitement to the dullest of days. Already bouyed by the sighting, my spirits were further boosted by a passing barn owl, returnuing to roost in the box behind the car park.
Once again the scrape was dominated by a large flock of teal with occasional wigeon scattered here and there, strangers in the midst of the flock. The wind was a northerly which blew in through the viewing slots of the hide and began to sap the warmth from me once more. The teal fed,stretched, preened and squabbled, turning thier backs to the hide to face directly into the oncoming wind. I made a couple of pages of gesture sketches just trying to capture something 'tealy' on the paper. Flights of wigeon rose and resettled in the distance disturbed by the quartering marsh harriers, or perhaps, an unseen peregrine. Two pied wagtails briefly visited the mud under the hide windows, more grey for a grey day, but by no means drab. I love their characteristic walk with tails constantly wagging and their 'chiswick' calls when in flight.
Time being short this week we made our way back to the car park and a view of the little owl sitting in his tree. The drive home was interupted by the sight of a mixed flock of fieldfare and redwing, there must have been hundreds of them, feeding on the hawthorn berries by the road. Fieldfares are big noisy birds with the look of the bully about them whereas the much smaller redwings seem delicate in a colour scheme of umber, cream and fiery siennas, but the two types of thrush seem always to be together.
I wanted to stay longer with the fieldfare and redwing but the christmas shopping is not yet done...
Visiting Artist Residency: Woodson Art Museum
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