Lifting the spirits

Despite still recovering from COVID and glandular fever, I’ve started to get itchy feet and have a growing urge to get out into the countryside around our new home in Northamptonshire. We woke this morning to a sunny spring day and headed out to a newly-found favourite spot nearby.

Hanging Houghton is only a ten minute drive away; it is a small, picturesque village sitting at the top of the wide shallow valley, the other side of which our village sits, albeit a couple of miles to the south. At the bottom of the hill on which the village ‘hangs’ is a small car park from which walks can be had along the Brampton Valley Way or along tracks across the open countryside. Today we walked out into the fields, only a short distance in total as tiredness soon prevailed over itchy feet. However, the walk lifted spirits more than I thought it would.

As soon as we left the car behind the songs of skylarks filled the air above the sprouting crops. A bringer of spring, the song is like no other, called from often unseen heights against the blue sky, a rapid succession of undulating notes, more complicated than the human ear can perceive. There must have been skylarks in double figures along the track, each marking out its territory and spreading the message of the new season and warmth to come.

They were, however, only one of the birds along the track. A pair of buzzards cried out as they circled above the narrow strip of woodland and red kites floated on still wings as they passed over head. A kestrel completed the raptors, hovering over the longer ditch-side grass, hunting for a vole or two from a hover or a nearby stubby hawthorn tree.

Out in the fields, the skylarks were joined by meadow pipits, also starting to display, calling as they parachuted to the ground with outstretched wings and upwardly pointed tails. A solitary reed bunting chirped from a stand of teasel and yellowhammers flitted from tree to tree.

As we returned to the car, far sooner than usual, there was a pied wagtail picking about the gravel and a stock dove cooing from within the farm buildings. Despite looking again, there was still no sign of the barn owl, though, the old brick barn in the middle of the fields still not providing a view despite the numerous visits.

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