Thursday 2 September 2010

Wayfarers All

"The Water Rat was restless, and he did not exactly know why. To all appearances the summer's pomp was still at fullest height, and although in the tilled acres green had given way to gold, though rowans were reddening, and the woods were dashed with a tawny fierceness, yet light and warmth and colour were still present in undiminished measure, clean of any chilly premonitions of the passing year. But the constant chorus of the orchards and hedges had shrunk to a casual evensong from a few yet un-wearied performers; the robin was beginning to assert himself once more; and there was a feeling in the air of change and departure."

So wrote Kenneth Graham in "The Wind of the Willows" in the chapter of the above name. Many of us right now must be feeling the very same feelings - some like the Rat and myself, desperate to hang on to the summer's warmth, others longing for the storms and cold of the winter. Whatever we long for we can feel it happening, feel the change coming.
As I walked across the marsh earlier this morning the sun was beaming down, rising each day now from an increasingly south-eastern place on the horizon, the mist had left and that autumnal stillness was everywhere. Despite what sounds there were out there, there was that blanket of stillness that seemed to draw you in and calm you. The last few Reed Warblers crept through the reed beds, Wheatears bobbed their white rumps on the track in front of you and Swallows skimmed the grass stems and the willows but you feel as you are now saying goodbye all the time. Before long the first gales will blow in the winter, ditches will fill and temperatures will drop but like the Rat I don't feel able to say goodbye just yet.

It was made worse this morning by visiting a house on the edge of farmland at Leysdown. Above the road outside the back door are electricity wires and all along these wires above me as I stood outside the house were assorted Swallows and House Martins. They ignored me and sat there, the Swallows twittering as they do and the Martins making their "pyg-amig" calls, all preening plumage and occasionally all doing a quick flight across the road and back, just to check that all was in perfect flying order for the trip ahead. I felt so jealous, how nice it must be to aimlessly spend a few weeks drifting down to Africa and to leave the cold and the wet behind. I stood underneath them and wandered what it was they were saying to each other and if they stayed together all the way south, roosting together at night in strange reed beds, the young following the old perhaps, and then suddenly they were gone and I felt sad, winter's coming and I don't like it.


  1. Kenneth Graham really knew his nature Derek :-)

    I look forward to Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn. Anticipating the different wildlife that they bring,and the different challenges. The only thing I hate is going to work in the dark and cold, what a waste of time !

  2. I love seeing the swifts swallows and House /Sand Martins arrive and the anticipation of the spring migration but I also love the autumn and seeing them leave and all those migrants on their way south!

    I do actually enjoy winter birding!
    You would have laughed though at the spring in my step these last few days with the sun out!

  3. Well I'm happy that both of you love the winter, depite the birds that it brings I loathe the weather that you have to endure to see them.

  4. I can't abide the winter either, Derek. Or maybe it is just the severe winters of Minnesota that are so much colder, longer, and darker than the winters I grew up with in Georgia that I can't abide. A perfect winter for me would last 6 weeks with temps that are below freezing at night only. ;-) Our starlings, canada geese, and other birds are massing for migration, so there is no denying that winter is around the corner of autumn.