Owls

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The easterly wind is cold and it fills the yard with dry grass. Streamers fly like tickertape, and the fences are festooned with strandy bunting which trembles like a madman’s hair. Old folk call this grass flying bent because it flies away in the first good winds of autumn, but we are more pragmatic and we’re told to call it purple moor grass, or molinia.

This grass was red and sunlit a month ago, but the rain and the falling temperatures have stripped away those autumnal colours. The hills are losing their jammy tang and now they are cold and grey beneath a flat winter light. The sky darkens with the rush of flying grass, and new faces have come to surf above the open ground. Short eared owls are hunting over the moor, sweeping up the dust of summer. I look up from some chore and find a bird staring into my eyes like hypnotist; blaring yellow discs invite me to swoon or obey.

This hunter is busy and he lands for a moment on the dyke between the moor and the stubbles. He looked big on the wing, but this fluff and volume is just for show; you could fit him in a coffee cup. Blown in like some piece of wasted grass, this bird has followed those easterly winds from Norway or Sweden to be here at this moment of final collapse. Mice who may have been celebrating their longevity now have additional cause for concern.

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