The Call of Winter

, 01 December 2011

Author Ronnie Reed

little egret / Tony Sutton
The season is over. The tourists have got into their cars and all returned home, the schools have retreated to the warmth of their classrooms and I have put my feet up. The empty park is holding its breath making sure that the last of its visitors have gone so that slowly and carefully it can unfurl and stretch like a waking child, emerging from itself again. When the people leave, the wildlife moves back in again. Already, grey squirrels are chasing each other through the fallen beech leaves in the forest car park. A heron has taken up fishing residence on the river bend beside the road and the mice in the barn are becoming bolder.

Winter is the time to take a walk down the park in the early morning mist drifting across the meanders, because you might be rewarded with a brief flash of blue that betrays the kingfisher that returns this time of year to the ditch near the entrance of the park. Watch for the little egret standing poised above the water while another winds its way along the creek that feeds into the river. The number of cormorants lining the far bank of the old meanders increase, wings arched, drying in the warmth of the thin winter sunlight.

On the water meadows, huge flocks of Canada geese congregate to feed, their summer numbers swollen by birds migrating from the north. Their call is the sound of winter. In the early morning, their cries fill the valley, as they fly down river into the sun, and then again, as dusk falls and the colour drains from the dark ribbon of the meanders and the November sky turns crimson in the west, their call is held on the still air as they make the return passage upstream. As the sound dies away across the dark, raw, empty, marshes and silence fills the darkness and the first star lifts into sky then you know it is winter.

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