Day of herons

It’s a day of herons – for no fathomable reason. The first of the day floats past the kitchen window as I’m filling buckets with warm water to heat the milk culled from Moira yesterday- it fills the space like a shark in an aquarium.
It turns back into the west wind to greet a following bird. They sketch a laboured aerial ballet, fly on, turn and circle before gliding down to ground.
This afternoon is bright, sunny and crisp, without wind – a hard little gemstone that will melt suddenly with a snowstorm, but generates brief contentment. Two wagtails perch on bedrock to mimic jumpy eyeballs on some giant moss-covered toad; a juvenile hare lollops across the Apron and halts unadvisedly in the open to wash its whiskers. A grey shadow lurks in the pond: the heron is searching for food- too near to the mallard’s nesting site. Mr Duck stands sentinel on the rock at the centre of the island, bolt-upright, unmoving, every energy focussed on the interloper. I relieve his watch- the heron lifts off as I walk down to the cattle; the drake swivels his neck to monitor me without changing position.
The animals are enjoying the chance to luxuriate. There are four babies: two red, one white and one chocolate – an unauthorised colour. Three are running together, the other is standing under his mother’s throat his head lifted vertically towards her chin – this is Moira and her boy, demanding intensive attention as a result of his failure to suck. For now they make a pretty cameo and he looks fit as a flea. Billy is among the trees knocking hell out of a fallen birch, I see his vast bottom surrounded by flailing branches as I walk down to find the little girls, Holly and Alice, turned out into the wood for the day. They spot me with the feed bucket; bounce up the hill towards me, one red, one grey (dun) their long hair lifting and falling on their heads and flanks.
Highland cattle at the gallop are my favourite sight in the world.
Back inside for the last time today – I watch the grey cloud masking the hills resolve itself in wet snow as the late day heron wafts slowly toward the source of the storm.


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