One Wild Winter – Visit a rook roost

rook-roost-1Went into sensory overdrive this evening down at the rook roost at RSPB Northward Hill reserve, one of the locations for BBC’s Winterwatch.

After several days when we all seem to withdraw indoors I revelled in the march across the darkening marshes. In the great rasping sleepy hush of the birds, a single silver star and a tawny calling in late winter hopefulness. The loss of the light, a rosy sunset. A winter wildness far from the overheated fug of living rooms.

See the country’s largest rook roost below


Pancake Breakfast

early morning primroseEarly morning walk to the woods to breakfast on pancakes.

Frost pockets in the shadows,

shear light, transparent in its gauzy vestments,

dropping the veil as the sun’s strength grows.

The grass like strands of icing on cheesecakes bought from Barton’s Tea Shopfrosty leaves

and eaten on formica tables under the orange domes of light.

Fighting my way up hill in the crisp morning.

Putting up a woodcock which bumbles off sleepily into the trees.

Little owl yowling on the marsh below.

One lone primrose backlit by morning sun.

Up through the woods to eat breakfast,

pancakes, coffee and an orange with a view of the Thamespancake breakfast

To hear the morning chatter of 4000 crows, woodpeckers laughing, the rasping grunt and pop and crack of herons at the nest.

And that’s it.

And that’s all I’ve come for

breakfast amongst the trees in the company of herons,

unseen, undisturbed.

A visit to the crow roost

Night time at RSPB Northward Hill

Night time at RSPB Northward Hill

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. 20150209-0004

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.