Watching a pair of grey herons perfectly still, poised and ready to strike, fishing the pools that have collected in the old stubble of our arable fields was not as encouraging a sight for me as it might have been.
Beautiful as they are, the fields on the estate need to dry out and I would prefer them not to be a magnet for mute swan bathers and passing geese. They have plenty of areas to choose from, although it was hoped, following a report of migrating osprey in the Stretton area, that we might witness a first at Eaton but it was not tempted down. Perhaps the puddles aren’t that bad after all.
The more common migrants all seem to have gone early; flycatchers, martins and whitethroats having opted for the sunnier southern climes already. There is a lull as nature’s turnaround once again turns to the darker months. Small flocks of meadow pipits can be found on the stubbles as can skylarks, I wonder have they come from France already? Residents without the luxury of winter breaks are collecting acorns and nuts. Grey squirrels are in that phase when nothing seems to prevent their dizzying runs and burying tactics. Jays are at their most obvious, pink brown body, blue wing patches and bright white rump flying purposefully from oak to oak as though their harsh call was not loud and obvious enough.
We are, as you might guess, struggling to turn around harvested fields of stubble into ploughed and freshly planted fields of wheat. The days of hovering kestrels and opportunistic buzzards harvesting their own easy pickings from behind the combine harvester, feel long gone. On the estate there are still jobs to do. Hedges are to be trimmed. The in-field hedges are cut every other year to encourage at least half of them to yield hips, haws, sloes and nuts for the winter arrivals. The cut part can then thicken, so as to provide cover for the chaffinches and yellowhammers to nest in next spring. Some of the margins and field corners left for wildlife need to be topped to rid us of scrub and invasive weeds. But enough thistle remains for the cheerful goldfinches to feast on the down and enough cover left to encourage the otter back up the brook as it searches for crayfish and small brown trout in the cooler months.
The open fields, however, also have their attractions. An already spotless fallow deer doe with one of this year’s young was spotted from the farm yard in broad daylight. This will become common from now on as these relatively unwary deer leave the cover of the wood and graze the fields below.