Country diary: a resonant raven kronk is heard through the leafless canopy

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Wenlock Edge, Shropshire: Answering with a clicking noise draws a response from the ravens, maybe they thought they knew who the sound belonged to

There’s something about the reappearance of snowdrops that feels superstitious. On the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century, the numbers didn’t seem to add up to anything auspicious compared to the everyday tragedies of Covid and climate. The augury of circumstance felt like a bygone curiosity.

So why summon owls? Blowing through the thumbs of my clasped hands, after a few out-of-practice splutters, one surprisingly loud hoot provoked responses from the woods. Two were close, but another three answered from further away. The owls sounded irritated; perhaps they were identifying themselves to each other, numbering in the dusk. Five, four, three, two streetlights down the hollow, one yellow daffodil bulb, half a moon. The previous night’s snow had melted, except for on the distant hills, and the brooks all rumbled through their culverts to gush down the dingle and join the River Severn in flood. On the wooded ridge above, yew trees gathered darkly around an abandoned quarry. Finding it, wandering there by instinct and trespass, felt like discovering the remains of a lost civilisation.

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