This is the sight that greeted me this morning, just half an hour ago, around 6.30am, when I pulled back the curtains to let in the day. The red deer have returned to the field earlier than expected and I have never seen a herd so large! There are around 75-80 deer, grazing peacefully in the early morning sun, with a bright, white mist hovering over them in the valley. It’s a truly stunning view I have from my room and I will sit here for a while, with my cup of Earl Grey and chocolate digestive until such time as they move off.
I’m about this early because around 3.30am I was rudely awoken by a commotion out on the front lawn. With the moon in her dark phase, hidden from view, the room is pitch black. If I held my hand in front of my face, I wouldn’t have been able to see it for some minutes, but I’m used to the darkness and the solitary air it brings to the room. I know that I won’t be able to see anything even if I go to investigate, so lay waiting for sleep to come to me once again.
The sounds of the countryside permeate the room most nights and I’ll drift off to sleep amidst an orchestra of the weird and wonderful but they don’t usually wake me during the early morning hours. They’re sounds that I love to hear though – owls, sheep, cattle, foxes, tractors working late into the night and, in the rutting season, the roaring of the red deer. There are no planes, trains, buses and, very few cars and I’m happy for it to be that way. Whatever is happening outside will have to wait until morning but I’m guessing it’s a wily fox out on the tiles, amusing itself.
It’s strange to see the deer in the field because they seem to follow a pattern of around two weeks on and two weeks off and they’ve only been gone from my view for a couple of days now. I really didn’t expect to see them this morning and I have to admit that I did let out a very tiny WOW! before I grabbed my camera. An hour later and they’re still grazing, heads down.
Over the moor yesterday evening, I was out trying to photograph the short-eared owl again. I sat for an hour, with a coffee, in the location I’d see it in a couple of days ago. It’s high on the moor with views that go on forever and I was quite happy to sit and ponder for a while.
Over in a field, on the other side of a row of trees, I could see five or six deer grazing in the early evening sun. On my side of the trees was a lone hind, pottering about in a grassy oasis amongst the clumps of boggy sedge and grasses. She made no attempt to join the others and seemed content to keep her lush patch of grass to herself. As the evening wore on another herd appeared in a further field and, eventually, they joined ranks and became one.
Still no sign of the owl and I wondered if it had departed for its nesting grounds further North. I had the sheep to keep me company though and they wandered along in front of me, not bothering that I was there, cross-legged on a bank, sipping coffee. They passed me by, arrived at the end of the field, and came all the way back again probably wondering why they’d bothered in the first place.
Skylarks rose consistently out from the grass, in full song. Their high-pitched, shrill notes continually gathering speed as they climbed, becoming a spot in the still blue sky. Meadow pipits bobbed along the tops of the dried grasses, flitting up and down before coming to rest, and crows, shining bluey black in the late sunshine, outlined against the sky whilst clinging to the topmost branches of a close-by tree.
Whilst sitting quietly here, I heard my first cuckoo of the season. It rattled off 12 of its gentle ‘cuckoos’ in one rally and then again five minutes later. Both sounded quite close by but I knew from experience, that’s not always the case. Last year, I sat for many hours observing the cuckoos and one of them had the most peculiar song. It cuckooed like any cuckoo would with the ‘coo’ part sounding fine but then it all went pear-shaped with the ‘koo’ part sounding like a spring had come loose. It was like something out of a cartoon and quite funny to listen to – very distinctive though. But this isn’t getting me anywhere – many, many birds… but no owl.
Deciding to move position, after an hour and a half, I turned the car around and made my way back from whence I’d come. A group of deer were to my left, standing out like silouhettes against the horizon so I stopped again and watched them whilst the sun began to sink away and out of sight.
Then, out of nowhere, I spotted the short-eared owl. Hovering above the grassland, it was very close to me but the sun was disappearing fast and I knew that my camera would struggle. Climbing onto the bank I sat amongst the heather and moss and watched this beautiful bird with its huge wingspan hunting, turning this way and that, flying away from me and then returning to allow me another view. The owl was then joined by a second and, even though, I was a little chilly now, I stayed sitting, enjoying the moment because I knew I may not get another chance before the owl was off and gone. In the last moments, one of the owls chased off a crow. Dipping and diving, it made its presence felt and then both disappeared from sight over the ridge.
Wearily, I made my way back to the cottage for a cuppa and my bed. I was looking forward to a good night’s sleep… and then my night time visitors woke me in the early hours!.. and I’ve been awake since.
The deer have moved across the field now and are out of sight, apart from one lone stag who is standing and looking my way. Both his antlers are intact with two and three atop and the tips are glowing white in the morning sun. He’s a stunning sight to behold as he starts to strut across the field to join the herd.
The eerie morning mist has lifted, I can see into the distance beyond and across the fields and I know it’s going to be another warm day to fill with simple pleasures.