Time has stopped ticking, the rural scene has paused. A meagre breeze does little to disturb the warm air that hangs suspended. Even the cattle in the field have been lulled asleep by the slow dreaminess of the day, a few swallows drift low over their backs, reluctant to leave just yet. The harvest here is almost complete and there is a lull in activity on the farm, the way Sundays used to be.
It is clear all around, in the hedgerows and woodland edges, that summer has ended but it seems for today at least, autumn has been distracted by something away over the hill.
In the past week whilst I have been away, the first hint of die-back has crept into the wayside vegetation. The bramble leaves are rusting and even the trees, once such a verdant summer green now show a hint, a tired tint. On the oaks, acorns hang between leaves that are dusty, holed and in some places beginning to dry and curl. It is these acorns which attract the jays. Raucous harsh calls announce their arrival, rampaging in complete contrast to the stillness of the surrounding day, seeming almost to catch the day-dreaming oaks unprepared, plundering their bounty.
The hours are stretching past lunch time and the day is beginning to stir, perhaps woken by the shouting jays. The breeze is growing in confidence and clouds gather on the horizon. A flurry of high pitched calls accompanies a multitude of bouncing flights along the hedge; an autumn tit flock. I watch the progress of bird after bird across a gap in the bushes, but soon loose count. Most are the comically proportioned long-tailed tit, but I also spy the larger great tit and the cheeky coal tit. A slender greenish bird is a warbler, clearly attracted in to make the most of the concept of safety in numbers.
As the tit flock bounces on into a further hedgerow and the jays depart on their next marauding party to an oak in the distance across the fields, it is time for me too to walk on.
Back at home the berries on the pyracantha have ripened a few shades further, and there are many deadheads to clear from the dahlias. My neighbour's lawn is scattered with fallen leaves.
In the gutter of the carpark behind the house I discover a surprising find, the sad body of a house martin. Everything seems wrong about this fragment of feather and bone; so still and grounded, in stark contrast to its usual agile flight, high and unreachable. I wonder at its cause of death, a rare clumsy moment from a passing bird of prey perhaps? The rest of the family still chatter around the apex of the roof at the end of the terrace, I hope they are more successful than this individual on their coming migration.
The changes in the hedgerows and the garden and the mystery of the martin murder remind me that a week is a long time in nature. I can't help but feel I have been away too long. It is good to be back on the patch.