Most people think I’m crazy for getting up at 6.00am on a Sunday, but I like it. It’s my own time – time stolen back from the busy weekend, before I get tied up in the hundred things that I need to do. It’s a fine time to be outside, to be with the animals and birds before the human world has woken up.
I enjoy my Sunday walk, even when there’s not much to be seen. Actually, let me take that back. There’s always something to be seen, if you look.
All week the farmers have been busy harvesting the wheat, working late into the night with lights on the tractors. It looks like a much better harvest than last year. It’s certainly drier. This means that the fields around here are now reduced to stubble and most have had their first harrowing, so the ground is composed of marble-sized clods of clay with patches of straw. I’m sure that a good tracker could track animals over ground like this. I’m equally sure that I’m not that good. I’ll wait until we get some more rain before trying tracking again.
The good thing about the wheat being cut is that the wildlife is visible again. For the past couple of months the only thing I have seen of the chinese water deer is their ears and heads poking up out of the corn. Without the cover they are much more visible (although they probably preferred being out of sight). There was a flock of over a hundred crows and rooks making the most of the spilt grain in one of the fields, and I was pleased to see a hare in the field behind my house.
I like hares. They live more interesting lives than rabbits. Rabbits rely on bolting back to their holes to escape danger, but the hare has no such easy option. Hares will sit in the middle of the field and know that they can spot danger coming and be running before it can get close.
I sat under a hazel bush and ate breakfast, idly gathering up some fallen hazelnuts. Some were still whole, but others had been gnawed by something. After consulting my books when I got home I’m confident that the nuts had been eaten by squirrels. Squirrels have strong enough jaws to crack open the shells of hazelnuts leaving a jagged hole. Mice and voles can’t do this, so they have to patiently gnaw through.
This is what I mean about these local walks. I know there are squirrels in the area – I see them most days – and I could have guessed that they eat hazelnuts. But having breakfast under a tree led to me collecting the nuts, which in turn led to me finding out about the habits of the animals that eat them. It isn’t a major discovery, but like a squirrel I’m gathering these little facts and storing them away for the future. They’re little pieces in my understanding of the area.