Finches and thistles

A goldfinch busily attempting to strip a field of thistle seeds

Summer is formally over. Until we receive further instructions from autumn, we are in a difficult middle ground. The chestnuts around the farm are turning and the bracken is almost all gone. Out in the fields above the far shed, chaos reigns.

The few pasture fields on the Chayne have become infested with thistles over  the summer, and now a raised canopy of downy thistle heads stands eighteen inches above the short nibbled grass. Walking over the ground yesterday with Chris Land, a fellow black grouse enthusiast from the Scottish Borders, I heard a very  familiar trilling sound. Looking through my camera’s long lens, I saw that that the field was alive with goldfinches.

The collective noun for goldfinches is a “charm”, but there was nothing cute and bonnie about these birds. They clattered through the thistle heads, squeaking and fluttering in a state of chaotic confusion. As we walked through them, they flickered away to another area of the field, peeping with frustration.

In amongst them, squadrons of linnets and pipits swept out to rest on the dyke below us, and the overall impression was one of earnest but childish industry. Remembering how barren and grim the Chayne was throughout last winter, I suppose I had better enjoy having these birds on the land while I still can.

In some ways, it’s all downhill from here, but with the first woodcock expected to arrive in around a month and the wigeon following shortly afterwards, at least there is something to look forward to…

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