What happened to winter? I can barely lift a finger outside without stripping off layers of clothes, the dark green hearts of wild arum leaves are unfurling in the woodland, Butterbur stands in full bloom along the verges and on the lawn, snowdrop buds are splitting to reveal streaks of white petal. I have recently decided that there are few things more tedious than for ever commenting on the weather and yet it is hard not to when things feel so unseasonal.
I have managed a respectable amount of shooting this season and my latest foray was a rough day out with B, H, my father and a few others. Up to now woodcock have been scarce, but 6 came to bag yesterday and many more eluded us. My first woodcock came as I was flushing teal from an old marl pit turned pond. The ducks long gone, I was watching Treacle working a dense thicket of bramble when up went the cry from B who had put a cock up from across the water. Making away at first with customary flitting flight, the little bird turned before the forward guns and headed straight back along the long narrow pond. Without much time to think I swung through and let loose a shot before my barrels were stopped by an ancient oak. Up went the head and tapering beak and glancing behind the tree I saw my first woodcock of the season fall amongst the knotted boughs of a fallen willow.
The second cock was an easy shot as it veered from my father straight over my head. Hit mid pattern it crumpled and nearly fell at my feet. Such a shot as this at our most elusive of game birds is a rarity and in honesty I did not relish taking that splendid bird in such fashion.
The winter nellis pears, picked in September, are nearly over and I put a last batch on for drying this evening to save them rotting and being wasted.