While still strong, the wind is not so cold today. It is another day that is cloudless.
The association of April with rain being delivered in re-freshing, short showers is far from the truth this year. The winds driving in from the east and the north are bitter and dry. Their strength and persistence challenges patience and good humour. They force us to seek sheltered spots when seeking some sunshine, to carefully consider the route for walks, or cycle rides. It is best to bear the brunt of the wind on the outward route and plan a way back following the lee of a hill, or through woodland.
With everyday similar to the last, identifying differences between days helps keep a grasp of time. The most obvious difference is the lengthening hours of sunlight.
Without cloud it is quite noticeable how long it takes for the last light of the day to finally fade. Only Venus is visible against the cool of the stretched evening sky before the other stars and a passing meteor shower can be seen. In the morning the first clacking, squawks of the loose game birds gets earlier and earlier, when they respond to an initial crow’s caw, coughed up from the rookery on the hill.
Shadows in the middle of day are shortening and the amount of sunshine reaching the woodland floor is gradually being reduced as the tree canopy spreads. But it is not so shaded under the oak trees as to explain why a tawny owl would be sending out a plaintive hooting at just after nine o’clock on such a luminous morning. I heard a single call and thought I may have been mistaken, until the full, echoing call resounded through the trees.
It was an incongruous sound in broad daylight, but no less out of place than hearing a car alarm whistling in the mid-morning. Military aircraft, agricultural machinery and the postman’s van provide most of the mechanical soundtrack out here and these are rare enough. Birdsong and the conversation in gardens and across fences are the most common sounds that break up the backwash provided by the waves and wind.
In late afternoon I note that there are now two swallows sitting on the telephone wire. They are matched by a pair of goldfinches. These birds rarely settle for long. They are twittering constantly, fidgeting and jumping off to new perches at the slightest excuse, perhaps I should adopt one as my emblem? These unsettled years no longer seem temporary, but the way life has become for me.
On the last of the marshland to the east, there is a small, artificial lake . It looks natural enough; it is ungarnished apart from its island. The place is thick with small flies and numerous sand martins have come to feed on the wing. They chirrup as they swoop in delightful loops, arc back to return toward the surface again and again, skim the very skin of the pool, marking it with a splash from their contact, but so slight a mark that the water does not seem to even ripple after they have passed.
On the grassland and the hillside facing the setting Sun, hares sit and enjoy the warmth on their fur. They hold their ears up, always on the alert to possible danger, so look permanently startled. These nervous creatures need little excuse to tear off in panic. They rarely run in a straight line, preferring long curving sprints before suddenly switching direction, dust clouding their exit. I lose count of how many are out and about this evening. All they seem to do is sit, unless they are running away from something, or chasing off another of their number who has inadvertently loped into the wrong territory. What are they closer to, mice and rabbits, or dogs and wolves? When they run they move like greyhounds.
The strong winds are not a struggle for everyone. To appreciate this fully, one needs to witness a lapwing playing out a noisy display of stunt flying. Their squared off wings enable them to make spectacular turns, dives and climbs at speed which are the very epitome of random. Fascinating enough these complicated patterns would be on their own, but these demonstrations of agility are accompanied by a piping, tuneless calling which is as unpredictable as the flight manoeuvres. The peewit whistles like an ancient wireless radio set being tuned in after dark; all pops and whistles, whines and squeaks.
It is these moments that bring difference to the days. This is nature filling in for the absence of April showers, who would have previously been providing the seasonal variety.
23rd April, 2020