Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Twilight

I'm fast turning into a twilight junky - not the teen literary phenomenon, but the hour of daylight before the night closes in. It's packed with bird action! Each autumn I spend a bit of time checking up on known thrush and corvid roosts (and trying to locate others). You really need to stay scanning in such situations until you can see no more - some birds will not enter a roost until it is pitch black. It is at this time that you get to know a patch really well. The fading light throws familiar ground into strange perspectives. Sound travels further. Your senses are heightened.

This evening was a case in point. I stood on the Epsom Downs gallops looking across and down onto Walton Downs. The most obvious sound was that of Jackdaws, with at least 775 gathering and going to roost, along with 300 Carrion Crows that somehow slunk off earlier and without fanfare. As the light bled from the day a few Redwing started to circle, then a tight flock of 40 fell out of the sky and swooped in front of me - hang on, these weren't thrushes, they were Skylarks - they stayed low to the ground, hugging the grass before disappearing into the gloaming. Another couple of passerines dropped in front of me, this time Meadow Pipits, and settled straight away in the long grass. These were followed by several more, birds that I watched coming in from a long distance, all of them going straight to the same spot. How did they know? Did they roost here every night? A few more thrushes circled overhead in the dying light. Why did they waste so much valuable energy? And just as I was about to leave, 38 Lapwing, butter-knifed winged silhouettes, circled the fields, not quite committing to land but not confident enough to fly off into the darkness for another berth.

And all this happened when most sensible birders would have called it a day. But it's never too late...

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