Unsteady Progress

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A huddle of larks

There is no steady progress towards spring. Change comes and goes like a tide, moving us forward and then back again in a lapping cycle.

It feels like we are getting somewhere on mornings before the sun has risen and curlews fly whooping in slow loops around the hay fields. Here are the first shades of April and May. Shelduck are laughing, and the cattle pull eagerly at a green haze of fresh grass.

But then I find the clock set back to zero again. Proud, displaying skylarks are driven down from the sky to huddle apologetically in small flocks of twenty and thirty. Rivalries are forgotten, and the little birds rush back into the safety of numbers. This is winter behaviour, and a bitter easterly wind rakes through them as they scan the sheep troughs for scraps.

Cradling a mug of hot coffee, I watched a flock of larks moving beneath the kitchen window. Safe behind double glazing, I could not hear their miserable complaint when a merlin swept over the dyke and scattered them up into a bone-cold wind like dry leaves.

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