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Beat the duvet days

PUBLISHED: 05:33 05 January 2015

Nature Foxley Wood credit Richard Osbourne

Nature Foxley Wood credit Richard Osbourne

© Copyright RIchard Osbourne

Duvet-snuggled in my December bed I wonder where I would like to go today. What wildlife, what wild lives, would I like to weave through my own life on this peerless winter morning?

Duvet-snuggled in my December bed I wonder where I would like to go today. What wildlife, what wild lives, would I like to weave through my own life on this peerless winter morning?

Birds. Yes, I think birds might be the answer. But where? In my duvet-clad imaginings I’m on the beach at Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s (NWT) Cley Marshes, my numb fingers training binoculars on the glass-cold sea. There’s a guillemot in the surf, diving into the muscular waves to reappear some metres away, beads of brine bright on its velvet-brown back. Further out, in the misty distance, red-throated divers fly by in deliberate lines, their strappy wings cutting through the winter-grey gloom. Inland the Eye Field ripples with the round black backs of feeding brent geese. Beside them are golden plovers, less tightly packed than the geese, as though carelessly scattered across the sward. Each plover seems absorbed in thought, trotting a nervous few paces and stopping again as though unsure it has made the right choice. The geese are all garrulous gossip; the plovers insecurity and introspection.

Under the duvet I turn on my side and reflect that a walk in the woods might better match my mood today. So to NWT Foxley Wood my mind roves. The trees are bare now, stark shapes against the slow light of this December morning. The brittle, finger-ended limbs of oak scratch at the sky. Ash has a softer shape and feel, stroking the day with lean, springy boughs and black buds like seductive fingernails. Hawthorn – rugged, intricately tangled – downy birch – knobbled and gnarled – alder – upright, dark with it hundreds of tiny cones – each trunk, each bough, each form is an old friend revealed from beneath summer’s clothing of leaves.

Then again today I might fancy a quiet squelch through the fen at NWT Upton Broad and Marshes. The flowering plants for which this site is celebrated are underground now, awaiting the clemency of spring. The dragonflies too – Norfolk hawkers, variable damselflies and many others – are dead, their offspring lurking hungrily in the depths of dykes. But there is much to see here in midwinter, and feel. Tits twitter through the birches, bursting into agonies of trilling as a sparrowhawk powers past. Or from the cut marsh a snipe bursts into flight giving its Velcro call. Perhaps in the dun cordon of tattered reed at the edge of a dyke you may – for one moment – spot a bittern, before this reed-secret bird slips from sight and is gone.

Which one of these wild Norfolk journeys shall I take today? Or should I rather seek a wild-eyed merlin, harrying hapless pipits at NWT Roydon Common or sit and watch the weave and bob of fieldfares across the rabbit-scuffed breck at NWT East Wretham Heath? Still under my winter duvet, I can’t decide. I’m glad I have two free weeks over Christmas to visit them all.

Discover more about Norfolk’s wildlife, what to look for, where to go and how we can all protect it at www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk

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