Country diary: seeing eye to eye with the birds

If there is an English hill with a more evocative name I cannot recall it. From the summit I can look across Dovedale and see the bone-dry, over-grazed, thin-soiled mounds of Bunster Hill. At my back, to the east, over the top of Lin Dale, are the rabbit-warrened slopes of Thorpe Pasture, where a buzzard pair has now reared three young.

All five birds rise and fall on the westerlies sailing through this part of the Peak District national park, and there is even one dramatic moment, accompanied by many excited young-buzzard squeals, when three birds, white underwings flashing, jink and twist down slope through the sparse hawthorn scrub as a couple of young rabbits bolt for cover. It is all to no end and looks in the spirit of play that the autumn wind induces in so many birds this morn.

In fact, one of the joys of Thorpe Cloud is that the conical summit, while just 15 minutes from Dovedale’s famous stepping stones, puts you on eye level with most flying birds. Kestrels, which seem to have enjoyed extraordinary breeding success in this exceptional summer, are hung on air in every direction. Momentarily, there is a peregrine pair, a floating male tattooed like a blue anchor on the long deep green sweep made by Dove wood through the dale. Then they are gone.

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