A Riot of Woodcock

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So it came to pass that darkness fell and the night crept in like a sigh. I worked alone and lifted neeps in the lee of a love-lost moon. It was hard to believe that this same field had rung to the din of a skylark in the sunshine a few hours before; the first of the year. I bent my back in darkness and wrapped knuckles, trying to remember how it feels to take a lark for granted. But there’s snow in a ring around us now; all the high ground from Criffel to Carsphairn is powder-white in the night light.

In standing and working, woodcock began to rush overhead. Their wings were clear and true as cock teal and the row of lusty foxes in the birks. They passed in fits and starts; single and in pairs – but then came five in a gang and I heard them squeak and jabber in the gloom. Round and round the turnip field, and then a sudden plunge to land almost at my feet.

Five woodcock in a riot like rabbits in the roots. They flared their tails and skittered across the mud, and one came almost within slitting distance; the shawing knife slack in my hand. Rage and squeak, then all five rose again and passed away to the north and the slacklands where the river bends.

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