Abstract Landscape Painter. Rural Dweller. Lover of Modernist Art and Design.
When I open the curtains at 6.30am I see the wonderful combination of sunshine and frost. The trees across the field opposite are partly obscured by mist. On the lane out front, a rook is busy looking for food. There’s no obvious target - he just capers about in his pantomimic style, checking first this and then that spot. He is soon joined by a second rook, in his intense scrutiny of the tarmac junction. When two or three vehicles pass, they lollop a metre or so back, with their comical sidestep, and then immediately return to the site of their intrigue.
The mist soon lifts, and after breakfast Millie and I set off on one of our favourite walks - I like the sweeping views across the farmland and she likes the proliferation of rabbits! Before we even get near to Rabbit-ville, she begins her low, crouching walk: head, back and tail perfectly aligned, stealth on four legs! The rabbits, on the other hand, are very blasé. They are used to frequent human and canine walkers crossing the field, and continue to sit in the Spring sunshine, at the top of their burrows until the very last minute when - *pfff!* - they disappear, like the reverse of a magician’s trick. Millie sticks her muzzle down a hole and sniffs. Drat! Got away again!
We turn right along the lane. Whilst I am looking at the field patterns, there is a sudden tug on the lead and some rustling on the other side of the hedge. A grey heron rises above the blackthorn and flies off across the grass field. He must have been hunting in the ditch.
The lane descends steeply and crosses a brook, by an old, abandoned, cart bridge. On again and then uphill, towards the church. About halfway up, as I am looking up at some fieldfares, I feel another tug on the lead. Millie has found something in the grass. At the bottom of the bank lies a dead barn owl. It is possibly a male; it’s hard to tell, as I cannot see its face, but the tail bars are quite a pale grey. There is little air movement, but a light breeze stirs a layer of exquisitely fine, white feathers. The bird appears so weightless; as if I would feel nothing on my palm, should I pick it up. A few more feathers are strewn around and I cannot see the head amidst the crumpled form - was this damage done before or after death?
Barn owls have few predators, but at this time of year, in periods of harsh weather, many starve to death for lack of prey. I sincerely hope that this is not the case. Even in death, it is a beautiful and noble creature. I cannot bear the thought that it grew weak from lack of food.
So much meadowland has been lost since the 1930’s - 97% in the U.K. We are luckier here than in most areas, but still, competition is fierce for that which remains.
All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson