There’s no excuse for ever doing a stroke of week here. I may have said that before… writing the words once again from a desk that overlooks seven or eight acres of Norfolk marsh, land we manage for wildlife.
I was putting a together a piece for a newspaper when I was called away: a sharp, urgent chattering from two birds at once. I took my eyes from the screen – no great wrench – and saw a small detonation of activity in the lower branches of the ash tree.
Then one bird flew one way and one another, both of them still yelling at the tops of their voices. They were kestrels, the sleek falconine shape and their mad excited voices made that quite clear.
One of them perched on the stump of dead willow to give me a good look: a perfect falcon, but somewhat fluffy around the edges. Young birds, then, as their behaviour had already indicated, perhaps taking their first flight that morning – and now out in the world, playing at kestrels.
How thrilling it must be, to discover those wings, that speed, that manoeuvrability. How hard it must be to learn control, to use those assets properly and become a real grownup proper kes.
I have been watching their parents for the past few weeks, hunting over the marsh, looking for food for their growing young. I have seen them hover and drop, hover and drop: sometimes rising again instantly and disappointed, sometimes vanishing from sight for a while: success for them, the end of everything for the poor vole.
These two kestrels, shrill with young life, gave me a touch of propriety pride. Had not our few acres fed them? Had now our place allowed them – or at least helped them — to be? The kestrel on the stump flew off, to try and be a kestrel somewhere else. Vaingloriously, I took that tumultuous flypast as a vote of thanks.