Soft, plaintive whistles carry through the damp air. A party of bullfinches is moving through the trees, mostly out of sight.
A bright pink-breasted male with a black cap lands on a branch in front of me. It whistles again then flies off. Six more bullfinches follow, flashing their white rumps as they flit through the grey, twisted branches and out of sight. Their calls slowly recede as they continue their search for berries.
Mist covers the top of the downs, and the morning light is still soft and weak when I reach the hide overlooking the brooks. Across the marshes, hundreds of water birds swim, feed, rest and call to each other. Wigeon are whistling, lapwing are crying and flapping up and down. On one pool, two groups of Canada geese greet each other – the leading birds lean forward, pointing their long, straight necks up at 40 degrees, and honk loudly.
As they come together, the geese continue to call in recognition, but the honking gradually subsides, and they paddle around together, before climbing out on to the bank and feeding on the grass. Overhead, flocks of birds drift in different directions – lapwing, starling, godwit, teal, wigeon and snipe. Small black dots coalesce to form dark waves that sweep through the dark steel-coloured sky.
The sun breaks through the cloud and lights up a small patch on the hillside in the distance. Trees glisten gold for a moment, before darkening again. In front of the hide, eight small teal paddle across the water. The first five birds are male. Even in the dull light, their maroon heads, marked with green eye patches and gold lines, look fresh and smart. Their flanks are covered in an intricate black and white checked pattern.
The leading male pulls its beak against its breast, rises out of the water, throws its head back as it whistles, before settling down again, flicking its tail. Two of the other males do the same. Winter is when many ducks pair up for breeding, and the drake teals’ displays are part of the courting ritual. The females seem unimpressed – they sift the muddy water for food with their beaks. The distant bells of St Mary’s church start to ring.
Aththa Withthi – Truth First like us on Facebook Page and joine to our Facebook Group.