Thursday, December 13, 2012

Frost & Blue Skies

Grass and leaves crunch with frost all day; breaking ice for the pig trough; ash and birch stems stand sunlit white against deep blue sky; gloved fingers pinched hard when scrolling optical lenses in stonking cold easterly breeze.

The wildlife walk proves rich with memorable images: compact little falcon flickers fast over the seaside hamlet, over the railway line, jinked down a hedgerow before flipping up into a small oak crown. Moments later, the Merlin swoops out low to crash, wings spread, onto frost-grey pasture; then off again, having missed its prey.

On a fence-post dividing rush-clumped meadows, an upright form sits, long-tailed, grey-tan with yellow legs: resident Kestrel preening, feathers fluffed.

Out on the flat estuary under a wide sky, thin whistles and growls from sharp-winged Wigeon, silhouette in shallows and shining mud, roosting, preening or sifting tiny molluscs from wet sludge. Sudden commotion as Wigeon, Curlew and gull flocks lift with loud whistles and calls with no visible cause located.

Calm returning, three long, low, back-quiffed Merganser silhouettes are spotted swimming downstream with Shelduck, Mute Swans, Gulls and Cormorants in scattered groups before a familiar, half-expected, erect dark form perched way out on the flats, tall and angle-shouldered on a rock: anticipated Peregrine surveying its flocks.

Later, a dozen Wigeon seem unconcerned, silhouette in sandy shallows of the harbour pool. However, sudden whistles prompt a quick scan of the sands revealing a vacant rock and powerful, sharp-winged form flickering low over the sands, eventually raising feeding ducks, waders and gulls before turning to skirt low over the horizon, altering course and accelerating after Redshank and Ringed Plover surprised into flight ahead.

Even with high-definition vision and fastest flight on the globe, this apprentice killer has its work cut out to take equally alert and sharp-sighted prey by surprise.

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