Wednesday 24th January 2006
Fine snow, like salt, had fallen; shallow water and mud alike were crusted with delicate ice when I left home at 0730. Thrushes and Robins were in loud voice but the rooftops were empty: the birds which occupy them during the day had not yet arrived from their roosts. The Jackdaws which spend the night at Udimore, go to Coastguard Cottages first; the Starlings were on their way from Winchelsea Beach (or are they the Hastings Pier contingent?); I guess the Collared Doves were fluffed up in one of the garden conifers; but the House Sparrowsâ€¦where do they go? I always assumed they stayed with us all the time, roosting under the eaves, but they certainly havenâ€™t been around first thing for a few months.
With little wind, it didnâ€™t seem too cold, and along the canal there were the usual birds: Green Sandpiper, Kingfisher and Barn Owl.
By the time I came to walk home after work, a wintry shower had passed, leaving a sunset of spectacular pink mountains and tall purple towers of snow cloud. I could see silhouetted lines of geese making their way back to their roost at Rye Harbour and a lone Marsh Harrier quartering the Pools. But when I turned in to the Pannel Valley at about 16.40, I encountered more Marsh Harriers â€“ a little flock of 5 wheeling above the reedbed. All of these were brown f/juv types, with varying degrees of white on them and one was missing a few primaries on the left wing â€“ maybe it had been shot at? The bird at the Pools was still visible, so â€“ 6 harriers together? In all the years Iâ€™ve lived here Iâ€™ve never seen so many at once. It was like…Stodmarsh?!
All five eventually settled down into the central reed bed, among the squealing Water Rails and rattling Cettiâ€™s Warblers. As I walked up over the hill, wondering what the bright planet was just beneath the moon, a fat Woodcock slipped past me, silhouetted against pale snow clouds.