The mornings are and evenings are now dark for me; not quite the black of night yet, rather a deep indigo twilight. The dawn chorus is active although the blackbirds are no longer singing their beautiful songs of spring, and in the very dim light of pre-dawn, you can see them hopping all over the South Parade gardens looking for breakfast.
There are still a few hirundines around, indeed I saw a couple of immature looking swallows sat on a post on the road to Barnby a couple of days ago, with others flying south over the school for autistic kids, but their time is sadly done. The nights are already cold, and perhaps with the next chill northern wind, redwing shall be heard tweeting overhead as they fly in from Scandinavia.
It is the time of year of the pied wagtail.
Of course, Willie Wagtail is a common bird at any time of year, a familiar sight in Newark marketplace, or walking (not hopping, like most songbirds) along the walls next to the Trent, bobbing its long slender tail in the fashion that gives the family its name. But is when the sun passes through the autumnal equinox, that the pied wagtail really comes into its own.
In a week or two, when I arrive at work at 630AM or so, the sky will be alive with their odd little double peeping whistle, and I will look up and see literally hundreds of the birds circling in the lights that illuminate the metal building. These are the wagtails forming up in their winter roosts, and a spectacular sight it is too. In the evening when I ride home, the birds will be visible wandering around the car park, avoiding car and cycle tire with ease, before making their way to the stand of three or four trees they roost in.
Quite naturally, when colder nights draw in, the pied wagtails form larger roosts to huddle for warmth in suitable locations. Our car park is relatively free of predators, and the large amount of bright lighting must make it feel warmer still. As I pass about 50 metres distant, the birds can be seen like feathery berries dotting the branches.
However the best wagtail winter roost I have seen can be found outside the famous Bell Pub in Slab Square in Nottingham. For Christmas, the trees outside the pub are decorated with coloured bulbs, and also with illuminated, luridly coloured wagtails, a hundred plus birds to a tree, like the most fabulous baubles you ever saw.
Truly the Willie Wagtail is a bird of winter, and always a charming sight.