Linnets and Late Summer Wheat

Late summer hedgerows, the umbelliferae are all but spent and a wreck of weedy undergrowth,mostly dry brown cleavers, clings to the shiny evergreen holly and fading hazel. Elder berries are ripening, blackberries just about finished and there’s a subtle change in avian behaviour.

Flocks of jackdaws, crows and rooks are conspicuously noisy as they go about their daily business.They seem to gather in larger numbers at this time of year,perhaps they’re pairing up, working family loyalties out, spreading news about food sources? I’ve always wondered what happens to the older birds, those no longer viable – do they become lone outcasts, spending their last days in relative solitude? You can spot occasional individuals at roost, flying off alone to wherever it is they go.  Are these the wise and the aged?

The joyful swallows and martens are keener than ever to feed and fatten up before migrating south, gracing the warm air above pasture, pond and copse. I’ll miss their enthusiasm for life. These slightly built birds are true travelers, I don’t know how they do it year after year surviving what must be a perilous journey, bringing with them the promise of warmer weather and drier countryside. I’d love to follow them one late summer as they wing it back to Africa.

The other day I walked through a field of late summer wheat, along a classic footpath stretching between dry stone wall and hedgerow on Copridings Farm. There’s something magical about a cereal crop ready for harvest – it’s the way the heads sway like a wave in the breeze, the warm scent of the ripe seeds – dreamily heading home through a golden field is something every person should experience at some time in their lives.

Near the stone wall I saw a couple of small twittery light brown birds fly out of the wheat, sparrow size. Then more followed. In the end about 20 appeared and they were all twittering as they flew up creating wonderful undulating flight patterns. Some, the males, had that familiar rosy colour on the forehead and breast. The flock were going this way and that and eventually in full twitter circled me and dropped, linnetcarduelis_cannabina_lvklike spent leaves, back into the wheat to continue their feeding. Therapeutic experience.

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