An Autumnal Wink


Walking the new pup this morning, it suddenly felt like Autumn. Just as you sometimes get a wink of spring in February, the hills had a still, dusty tiredness which felt like change. A brood of young buzzards were stretching their wings and mewling to one another above the bog myrtle and the ripening bramble fruit. Whitethroats clashed their tiny gears in warning as we ambled by, and the hedges twitched to the parcour passage of young wrens. The ditches are full of vetch, the best summer for this little pea I can ever remember, even in Devon where I spent the weekend at a friend’s wedding. In the South, the downs were full of gatekeeper butterflies, while here the buddleia is alive with stunning admirals, fresh out of the mint with paint still wet.

The roe rut runs on, and a heavy-fronted bruiser smashed the bracken as I passed this morning, yapping as he went. The pup sat down in curiosity at this din, and the hard, sporey bracken reeked across the track. As I came in, a peregrine passed high overhead, mobbed by a score of swallow hooligans. These teenage gangs have nothing better to do than cause trouble while the living is easy, and although there are other youngsters still in the nest, these gatherings have a joyful, adolescent feel. The grouse season is now a week away, and this to me is always the first of many downward steps into autumn. I generally dislike the expression “harvest” in its sporting context, but there is no better word to describe the gathering of a summer’s crop of young birds from beneath the flowering heather.

The swifts are already trickling away through our fingers, and while summer still has a trick or two to play, the slide has undoubtedly begun.

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