The deer are there this morning and the hares; but an ice-pick wind hacks at me along the valley and a brutish rain comes. So I retreat. The rain falls heavier and I start to run back to my car. Reaching my lonely parking place, still before light, I see, for the fourth time this week, an owl on slim bowed wings. Each time I have seen this owl, in this same place, it has been for a naked-eye moment in the dark. Each time I have been unable to judge the length of its ears. Yet each time something in my heart has told me that they were long.
This time I see the owl, in the still dark, dive into junipers towards my car and as it does I hear from a sentinel cypress above me, by an abandoned cottage where once a keeper lived, the rusty creak of an owl chick. A long-eared owl chick. The cypress is too dense, too dark, too big for me to see the chick, so I walk to where the adult flew and searing into me from its cryptic face are ruby eyes as angry as last night's cat's.
I move and my long-eared owl is gone. The rain falls and the ugly wind blows and there is no sign of my hybrid cat at its dump, so I drive home through the wondrous Abernethy woods, hoping to find a capercaillie on the road. I find instead two hairy Highland residents outside Grantown on Spey and in the bank of the road into town sweet cicely in flower. No cat, no capercaillie, but wonders everywhere, this wind-harried early day on Speyside,