Among the February pipings of great tits arose a terridactal chorus, a primal Saturday afternoon football crowd yell of life, it was this blood roar that had drawn me to the rook roost as darkness fell.
It is worth going at least once every winter to see a big corvid roost. It is a sensory assault, not birds in singular but birds on mass.
It had been a day with a tinge of warmth, the first of the year, but now the sun was leaving and the cold of a clear night to follow was rising. You could see it rising, the warm air meeting the cold in a thin blue layer on the horizon.
The pop, bang, whistle of bird scarers ricocheted off the trees as I reached the roost. ‘Too late,’ I thought. ‘They are already in.’
Birds hung from the trees like black bunting, a macabre tree dressing of rooks, crows and jackdaws in their thousands. They rose in Mexican waves, funeral confetti tossed into the air, the birds calling, a sleepy purr that spread out across the marshes in ripples.
I hung to the tree line so as not to be seen. Herons floated overhead like giant fruit bats, taking a circular look at the empire before bed. They landed in a ditch, I could hear them among the reeds talking to each other with piggling grunts. It was the time of day when nature muttered secret words to itself, not alarm calls, not territory calls but private chatterings to near neighbours. It was the time of day I loved on the marshes, when I wasn’t expected, when the wildlife sang a private sonnet, not meant for human ears.
This was what bought me out to the marshes, near dark. There was always something new, something not witnessed to be found, if you took the trouble to head out your door.