Sunday 7th July 2013
Too muggy to sleep, so at 04:15 I get up, have breakfast and head out for a walk. I forget to bring a fleece, but it doesn't matter – even before sun-up it’s about 14C (57F). I change my shoes and walk along the lane to the song of dunnocks and blackbirds and the rather tedious drone of a greenfinch. I walk around the bend and onto the bridge where I pause for a moment to scan up and down stream. Nothing much happening on the water, but just as I’m about to carry on two brown hares run up one of the adjoining tracks towards me. They stop and look at me, with that “Oh crap! Busted!” expression before one runs across the path and into an adjacent field and the other turns and goes back down the track.
I move on a little when some movement in the grass catches my attention. Whatever’s happening is obscured by the dense vegetation, but it sounds very much like a couple of shrews having a punch-up. I continue along the lane and stop to admire two more hares and a smart male pheasant in the field to my right. Carrying on up the lane to the corner, as chaffinches sing and blackbirds work the verges looking for breakfast, I turn to watch the sun rise over the trees. Initially a watercolour red, the sun catches a small amount of mist lying in the field turning the air golden. A few minutes later the sun is a blinding yellow orb clearing the treeline.
There is a lot of bird life around and a sedge warbler belts out its staccato song from a nearby tree as I reach a field planted with what appear to be runner beans. Between the canes a roe doe is browsing, but she spots me and takes off along the row – no sign of any young with her. I return to the bridge and am greeted by an odd ‘squawking’ noise from a young female mute swan, who preens for a while before swimming off downstream.
I cross the bridge and stop to look down another track as something catches my eye. The small russet form and delicate tripping gate can mean only one thing: a red fox. I only get a fleeting glimpse as it crosses the path, but it’s great to see and the first one I’ve ever seen here, despite it being seemingly ideal habitat for them. (I presume foxes are heavily persecuted on this estate owing to the number of sheep kept here. This may also be a factor in the booming brown hare population here.) I walk up this track as a rabbit darts across the path and speckled wood butterflies engage in their protean flight between flowers in the bank.
As I reach a fork in the track I stop and look over the field and to my delight spot a family of roe deer, the doe making her way along the edge of the field with twin kids, about five weeks old by now, in tow. (Unlike most deer species, twins are common in roe, accounting for about three-quarters of litters.) She stops and waits for them to catch up, then the trio move down the bank and out of sight. I reach the end of the track and stop at the gate to look in the field; only cows here at the moment, but a family of wrens hop about in nearby vegetation, ‘churring’ as they do so. An excellent morning and well worth getting up for.