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A LOCAL WALK IN WINTER - 6 February 2015

Late afternoon and I am walking along the river Coquet near home. Well into winter, but it's a mild day with a hint of 'cold' to come. The river banks are strewn with flood detritus. Natural lines of broken twigs and dead grass record the high water mark. Snowdrops are poking through the bare sandy soil. "Spring will come" they seem to promise and I feel reassured.

I disturb the regular Roe Deer by the clump of trees at the river bend. There are 4 on this occasion. Their butts are gleaming white and their tails clearly visible - a rare and striking sight for me which prompts me to conjecture whether these animals look their best for breeding, just like birds in fresh spring plumage. They run off. Further on, I flush 2 coveys of Grey Partridge and several Reed Buntings feeding in the stubble. I flush single Wrens that break for cover and dart into nearby vegetation. Best of all, I flush a Woodcock. I note its long bill and blunt-end wings, its rusty-brown rump and white tail edge. I feel great seeing a 'target' bird! And then there are the Buzzards - birds I always enjoy to see and hear. Three today, and one is clearly larger and longer winged. It's the calling bird which surprises me as it is evidently a female. But I should know better. Nature is full of surprises and my knowledge is still so limited. New things to learn on a local walk in winter.

Mark Winter


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