Halloween is high season for migration, when flocks are borne on a north-east wind. Halloween, when the clocks go back, the nights draw in and the woods are golden.
Like the magic of the Patterdale deer rut last week, today's winter thrush experience has an aura of mystery, of secrecy, and the unknown. The weather forecast suggests the morning will clear to brightness, but it does not. We glimpse White Scar, Whitbarrow, but mist shrouds the Lyth Valley. There are dark silhouettes in the tops of trees- at a distance and in low light they could be leaves or winter thrush. Gusts of wind bear autumn leaves in flight and ash keys morph into fieldfare and fly in scolding tones. The indrawn whistle of redwing comes from dark and dense hawthorn. Fieldfare and redwing call from berry shrubs and tall trees and fly on our approach More numerous than we had thought. Sitting beneath hawthorn, we hear redwing in the branches close above our heads. A day of mist and mizzle, but it's late October so we seize the day - there's Halloween weather to come with strong winds, heavy rain and thunder in the forecast.
High Roost, Somerset Levels 19.1.92
Above his willow roost on high,
Like the last winter leaves where no leaves are
An aureole of fieldfare.
Below, a hare halts on the bank and leaps
The frozen rhine.
Cradled in osiers, he sleeps
And as we watch his dream go by
Our telescopes, at last, descry
The russet pelt of fox and twitching ear
A fox sleeping high in a pollarded willow that grows beside a frozen rhine. Jeff Holmes found it. He's a superb naturalist and on a field-trip it's invariably Jeff who is the spotter. What we saw resembled a picture in a children's story book: fieldfare in the top of the willow, fox asleep as if in a cradle of willow, and hare which leaps over the icy rhine unseen by the sleeping fox. Unforgettable.