Monday, 16 March 2009


By the road, atop a weather worn post sat a phantom, a pale ghost visible in the light of dawn. Barn owls send chills down the spine and astonish with their beauty. With the turn of the season the day starts earlier, the sun rises sooner and clearer skies allow light to encroach on their hunting time making conditions ideal for watching these silent spirits. He left his perch and cut across the road behind the car, soon vanishing from sight only to reappear in a field ahead, or was this a second owl, a pair checking the usefulness of the territory around them for the upcoming raising of young?

A merlin showed briefly and thrillingly, and the sun filled the sky with the promise of good weather for the day. The wind has had its teeth filed by spring now and it has lost its bite, its cutting edge blunted so that it no longer slices through layers of clothes to cut at the flesh and bone beneath. It is still cold but it is not the killing cold of winter now, most birds seem to be strong and ready to take up the challenge of breeding, on the scrapes ringed plovers are mating and there's promise of new life everywhere. But not all can survive, there have been casualties along the way. A lifeless bundle of white sat on the mud, the wind ruffled through feathers no longer held close to ward off the chill. Around the corpse ran ringed plovers, at times one of them would stop and regard the dead black headed gull with what looked like curiosity but it would soon move on to continue the urgent business of feeding. When the plovers settled it was at a distance from the body, as if they were worried to be too close to the dead.

Caught in the grass like gossamer ghosts was an ill defined circle of feathers, a wigeon had met its end here. The feathers had been plucked, not bitten, so I suspect the duck had fallen to a bird of prey, perhaps one of the peregrines or a sparrowhawk. The delicate filaments fluttered and some few broke free of the grass to scatter on the water of a nearby dyke where they floated like little fairy boats, tiny echoes of the the bird which once wore them.