Tuesday, 25 April 2017


Up in the attic with the window ajar in implausibly glacial late April.

A wafer of ice has made sorbet of the bird's water dish and the bee-bath. I shatter it when I'm out scattering mealworms, filling feeders, dispensing lard and suet. Back up in my den I nudge the window wider. The chill's going to be worth it.

This morning I'm listening for something special.

I'm waiting for wings.

The Red Arrows are staging a fly past from RAF Scampton. Scheduled to pass over Robin Hood Airport at Finningley quarter of an hour later, they're flying east as far as Humberside Airport before heading back to Scampton.

Aircraft out of Doncaster regularly cruise low over my roof, at hundreds of feet instead of many thousands. Thrilling yet unnerving. Imagining their wings against this stainless blue sky, anticipating the rumble as they soar over, was what set my fingers notching the window sash onto the latch.

Through the open glass can I hear goldcrests zithering in the conifers over the road at the old farm, rippling further off in the grounds of the Grange. A chaffinch is doing his impersonation of a cricketer running up to the wicket to bowl a spinning googly, the fall of notes at the end of his trilling phrase bouncing down from the Ash tree through the budding leaves. Greenfinch tops the linden, whistling nasally in long coils of whoop. My ear catches the cross tutting of Blackbirds fighting over supplies of sustenance on the patio. Dunnocks are flying off the handle. Robins are in a song contest knockout against their rivals with a medley of their hits where the lyrics always sound like "Do you know who I am?"

There are already babies to feed. I've not seen any in feathery person yet. I only know because their parents' gathering outweighs their grazing. I'm hoping the frosty night hasn't taken them by surprise. You can't throw on an extra heated blanket when your bed's a few twigs in a draughty hedge.

I never do see the Red Arrows, after all. The clock hands sweep past the moment of their homing. The planes must have headed out to the coast and back without darkening these inland skies. The tilted roofs with their aerials sucking signals from the sky, the telegraph wires swinging liquorice skipping ropes in the playground of nippy air are satisfied with the sunshine.

With the window open, I can see sparrows giddying along the eaves, inches from my upturned eyes, skippy shadows fluttering, overwound clockwork automata driven by the ceaseless chivvying of their hungry youngsters from their playpens in the roof.

I think I got the best of it.

I know I did.

It was worth the wait.

I witnessed the wings that make the future brighter.

Young Wood Pigeon - more wings to watch for in Spring

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