Thursday, 10 November 2011

Welcome invasion

It's been a stonking, sunny day today - autumn at it's best. I celebrated by putting the washing out on the line this morning for the first time in weeks (you have to get your pleasures where you can when you live in a small village). My daughter's dandelion-yellow bedding is now flapping and twitching in the breeze like a hen in a dust-bath, soaking up the warmth.

The sky has been full of birds that also seem to be making up for lost time. The ubiquitous jackdaws have been joined by skeins and skeins of pink-footed geese gossiping loudly as they fly overhead. The village sits under the Strathallan flyway, an aerial motorway for birds heading to and from their roost sites along the valley.

Flocks of fieldfares have been passing through for weeks. But today, as they move between the hawthorns and rowans on the railway embankment opposite our cottage, they look like gangs of rowdy football fans on a pub crawl after a big win. Perhaps I'm not investing them with the dignity they deserve. The spaniards call them Zorzal real, the royal thrush, and with their steely-grey heads, dark eye-stripes and russet-brown backs they do have a certain dramatic presence about them. But their raucous 'chock-chock' calls give them away for the Viking marauders they really are. Over half a million of them come over to the UK from Scandinavia every year to pillage our autumn crop of berries and rifle our pastures for invertebrates. They stay until the worst of the Northern winter is past and then head back again to breed in the woodlands of Norway and Sweden.

Here in the village they are welcome invaders as far as I'm concerned - bright, sparky birds to ward off the long, dark winter that's bound to come. With the clocks going back it already gets dark here by 4.30pm - and counting.

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