Saturday, 30 October 2010

Notes from the Lochside

The far side drifts in and out, grey veils of misty rain swirling across the still water. The robin darts onto the deck, grabs a piece of something from the birdfood scattered on the railings and vanishes again, only to return in a flurry of wings to send an inquisitive chaffinch packing. Falling leaves look like small birds flying to the ground; as the rain grows heavier, the drops hit the remaining foliage, drawing the eye – was that another bird?
No, just a bouncing leaf.
A bedraggled great tit, feathers askew, lands on the bird table and tucks into the birdcake, caution and hunger in equal measure as the bird looks over its shoulder for predators then returns to its feast. More arrive, great tits, blue tits and the occasional coal tit. For a while it looks like a game of feathery billiards, each bird that lands on a feeder sending the previous incumbent bouncing off in another direction, to the table, or the hanging coconut shell, or the debris scattered below on the decking, none willing to share their position. Gradually they settle down and seem to become more tolerant, and even the robin slacks off his sentry duty.
A flash of yellow catches my eye and makes me look twice at the bird that's just arrived. Smaller than the chaffiches, with a deeper notch in the tail - female siskin. Another joins her, and finally a male arrives, smart in black, green and yellow.
The loch slowly reappears, punctuated by a small group of cormorants, their flight low and purposeful, heading southwest. Mallards squabble at the water's edge. The far side emerges as the rain eases off, a tapestry of green and brown and russet. The trees are beginning to turn colour; as if someone is tweaking the hue and intensity settings.
For a brief half-hour, the skies clear, and the birds, strange to relate, vanish.
Then the drizzle returns, and the far side starts to disappear once more.

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