Red wing, crimson berry

Wednesday, 1st November 2000, West Yorkshire
the canal THERE'S A LAST REMNANT of autumn colour on the trees that the storms have almost stripped of leaves. The yellow stands out dramatically in the sun against blue grey clouds heavy with rain.

redwing Some of the Hawthorns are washed deep crimson with berries. By the towpath, small brown thrushes fly from the hedge. I'm sure they're Redwings because I briefly hear a 'chuckle' call. Redwing also have a high-pitched 'tseeeip' contact call but this is beyond the range of my disco-damaged hearing.

These are the first winter migrant thrushes that I've seen this autumn.

The same field last December I've no problems though hearing the throaty 'grockle' of a Pheasant on the opposite bank. The stubble field between here and the river is half underwater so where the pheasant might normally stand four Mallards are now dabbling.

heron A Grey Heron flies over against the brooding sky.

smooth sowthistle The odd flowers - Smooth Sowthistle, Oxford Ragwort and Cow Parsley - that are still out along the towpath seem out of place in this dripping wet November landscape.

All Hallows

Oxford Ragwort Before it was Christianised, All Hallows Day or All Saints' Day was the first day of the Celtic year. All Saints' Day was originally celebrated on the 1st May which is also the Celtic Beltane. Perhaps one of the old Celtic customs got transferred from spring to autumn along with the Christian festival; at Beltane cattle were driven between bonfires set on hilltops in what may have been a purification ritual to guard against disease.

I wonder if it works. New statistics suggest that as many as 250,000 of us, may eventually die from the human form of Mad Cow Disease.

In the canal-side pub car park there's a pile of wood for a bonfire. Wood smoke drifts from the chimney cowl of a narrowboat, while a pipe-smoking man chatting to its occupant creates his own passing white page

Richard Bell
Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

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