In the darkling dusk of the November night, birds slip silently into the forest. Night comes just after teatime now and the owls awake at four in the afternoon and make medley to the last gold bars of sunset.
Then as I stand outside in the gloaming I hear and briefly see redwings diving into the cover of hazel thickets. They have a soft reassuring call to each other, knowing where others are sliding and falling like frightened fish in ocean depths.
They have been in the thorns all day, gobbling hawthorn and yew berries, and watching for the devil imprint of hawk and harrier. They are excited and happy just for the prospect of another minute of life, for they do not fear the future like us. Every second counts to the redwing, pictured above, and that is all they want, just the present free from fear. A quarter of them will not be here in another year. None in four years. Now life is thrilling and I can sense their vitality and this makes me alert and happy to be here for this moment.
How many of these little thrushes from Sweden made the North Sea crossing this October and November, I wonder. Shall we have a snowstorm in the first week of December as we did last year? These blizzards in the past have forced tens of thousands of thrushes past the seafronts of Brighton and Hove, over the rooftops of the houses huddled against the winter roaring of grey waves. Tiredly they fell into yew combe and downland fold, huddled together in their hundreds to every tree.
And then with morning sun sharp lighting the gold and blue and pure whiteness of the hills, on they swept: somewhere over there, perhaps into Somerset, hopefully, just here, in Sussex, though I have seen them in deepest Portugal where the cork oaks grow and the gunners hide in waiting for them.
My dusk patrol each early night awaits the buzzard returning from his hunt. He will glide so low across the beam of the house he looks like an eagle. Crows complain, and sometimes the raven if he is in residence. Then out floats the woodcock on his journey to the pastures to hunt for worms. Even a late goldfinch or hawfinch on a last frantic hunt for cover.
But always last, the redwings, falling like the leaves of the red oaks, down, down, into dense cover, under the blanket of night and deep rest.