Monday, 26 December 2011


The fire still rages behind the Downs, the sky burns the orange of an early winter sunset.

A walk along the flood bank to a further field brings the solitude of a lone tree. Rushes abound on a small island, just south of the canal entrance, and a distraction here spoils a photgraphic opportunity when I rise over the bank to disturb a large male short eared owl with a water vole firmly grasped in his talons.

He rises up and scolds me as he seeks the cover of the shrubs 500 metres west. Clouds cover the sun and the colours change to tired greys.

The trouble with owls is that they are the colour of bark, and hide in trees.

I glass the length of the shrubbery for a  few minutes unsuccessfully before one, then a second, takes to the air. They dogfight over some imagined slight before one retreats, wisely chooing a hawthorn further west as his perch. Battle is spectacular, with twists and turns, screeching and aerobatics; all bluff and bluster, neither wishing to retire hurt on such fertile hunting grounds.

The kestrel keeps his solitary distance, drifting south, and higher, watching all the time.


Just before four the sun sets and the winds drag the clouds to the east. The sky burns again, and the fields empty towards homes with mince pies waiting for intrepid explorers.

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