the tumbling to fields of the gulls. Of twenty-eight Black-headed Gulls in the flock, all but two had the handsome brown hood of summer. But, flying, they arched into a winter wind. The Sparrowhawk today flapped wearily out of sight. The seasons are turbulently mixed. But as an early dusk falls to the sound of the gale, I recall the brightness of the crimson Bullfinch of the morning, preciously proud of his nest-building mate, and, likewise, I await, with expectation, a rich and resplendent summer. MAY 01ci The day was burst open by the fury of the wind. It hummed through MAY 21st wires and bent trees to breaking and sent pebbles stinging against the gritted teeth of rock. I found shelter in the dry sporadic stream-courses that slice down the valley-side like perpendicular veins. Large rocks from above chaotically strew their profiles; grasses and mosses are thin. Desertic blustered Hawthorns hold out prickly brittle branches from which lifeless lichen flakes; and yet still these cripples cling to life. Amongst the greyness of death, green buds were lining stronger boughs; a promise of another season's existence. And on one I found, precariously perched, the scant twig-home of a Carrion Crow. Three chicks lay quiet but the fourth squeaked like an unoiled hinge, displaying his hungry red mouth. These birds should fly before long. Wheatears hurried across boulders below me and a Wren chattered loudly from her doorstep beneath a rock. And the occasional Meadow Pipit called. But all other bird-life stayed clandestine while the wind ruled. The ruined cottages on the streambank below stood deep in Stinging Nettles. They lined the doorways, carpeted rooms, sprang up between the cluttered ornaments of broken stone. The whorled leaves of Rosebay Willowherb spiralled here and there from barren yards. And each home had its stoic guardian, a single, grotesquely wind-wrought Rowan tree. Above me the moors were aflame, fanned by an abetting wind. Started, maybe, by a careless match or a fragment of broken glass, how many nests of the Meadow Pipit, I wonder, did it incinerate? How many rodents were scattered from their homes? How easily could it have been avoided? Fire is part of the natural cycle of things, but Man was not always so apt to aid it. All night the blaze raged, devouring whole hillsides. The wind dispersed the acrid smoke and the sky glowed vividly orange. MAY QEvl-h Day rolled into the valley behind an enshrouding mist which hung MAY 25th around hilltops and settled in dells all day. The dogs were out early in the fields, flowing through fences and streaming over slopes, darting amongst sheep, crouching, alert, bright-eyed; awake to the slightest movement of master, ewe or lamb. A Sand Martin colony, south of here, was a veritable beehive of activity. A sandy face has been dug from a steep field and lies maybe forty yards from the river. Two bands of fine-grained earth have been worked by the birds and all but two of the fifty-one holes have been excavated in these. Birds were twittering and flitting continuously; some hung at the nest-entrances, showing darker brown than the earth; others flighted to and fro, hawking insects, and displaying prominent breast-band extensions to the brown of the upper parts. These birds will only now be settling down on eggs. Back in the valley the clinging mist returned to hasten the dusk. At the top end of the field below the Larch plantation, eighteen Magpies worked the boundary, chattering excitedly. At the greatest distance, even before the silhouette of a Magpie becomes obvious, the white flicking of wings will betray its presence. A late wind arose and cleaned up the mist. The western sky was a cold palette of pastel blues and greys. The eastern darkness dilated until only the rushing disc of the moon penetrated the veil. The Tawny Owl-voice wafted once across the valley. 12 Keswick Road, Wallasey, Merseyside, L45 3JD.