Sunday, 13 February 2011

Not long now

Elmley was bleak this morning and it was cold. Not the crisp, clean cold of deep Winter, but a dirty, grey cold, one that no amount of layers seemed able to keep out. Across the grey landscape grey clouds scudded, ripped and torn to shapeless shreds by an urgent and insistent wind racing in from the grey Swale, laden with the tangy scents of salt and mud. Drizzle driven by the same wind was flung into my face, it felt like fine sand and made my eyes water with emotionless tears. The cries of curlew whined out across the marsh and even the bubbling laughter of little grebes seemed more mournful than cheerful.

But perhaps it shouldn't have sounded so. Perhaps their laughter should have had the ring of hope. Because these are the last days of the season, these are the last days of the dour hand of Winter that brings the grey rain and the spiteful winds.

Spring is trying hard now to shake Winter's grey mantle and begin colouring the days. Cleaning the drab olive grass to a bright and luscious green. Scouring the grey from the skies, polishing them to blue and decorating them with a dash of fresh cotton white.

Hares are gathering together, the females are tetchy and will soon begin to fight off the advances of the increasingly excitable males. There are coots brawling in the grey and choppy water and I have seen great crested grebes presenting gifts of vegetation to each other and dancing on the surface together like lovestruck teenagers. Geese are pairing off and blackbird males are becoming aggressive in defence of invisible but solid boundaries. Feisty blue tits have started chasing rivals and staking their claim to the nestboxes. Out on the Fleet the teal males raise their crests, flick their tails and bow to the, as yet, indifferent females. I watched a pair of peregrines playing together on the grey winds, treating the sky as a playground, riding the turbulent air like a toy.

Spring is here, but it awaits its moment to burst through and clear away the last dismal stutterings of a stubborn and belligerent Winter.

It won't be long now...