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I sleep with the window open so I can hear the swallows. But in the last few days, there has been less to hear at dawn and in the final moments of the dusk. Most of our swallows have gone now, and only a few broods remain around the yard and in the rafters of the dairy.

Now I hear new sounds instead; the wail of greylags and canada geese moving under the moon. There are barley stubbles up the glen, and the heavy birds work back and forth to raid the grains before the old residues are ploughed in and the new crops are sown. There are redshank and greenshank calling out alone below the stars, and sometimes a team of golden plover feeling their way to the sea.

I woke this morning before dawn to the sound of lapwings; two dozen of them moaning quietly in the stillness. I leaped from my bed and ran out into the stackyard to watch them pass; heavy-limbed and dull above a raze of mist on the meadows. And that’s when I noticed the first frost of autumn, crunching into my bare feet and burning the soles like a peat fire.

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