An autumnal afternoon, warm, with a hint of chill in the breeze. Perfect. Up on to the moor!

To my great surprise, I spotted a lone wheatear at the top of the moor near the trig point. He was leaving it a bit late: all his friends appear to have flown. No sign of any swallows, either. Looks as if another summer is officially over.

Judging by all the go-back! go-back! calls, there seemed to be quite a few red grouse about, hidden in the heather. So I decided to sit and wait, to see if any of them would reveal themselves. I had brought a flask of tea with me in anticipation of such a wait.

Of course, as luck would have it, I got my best view of a grouse while I had the flask of tea in my hand. But I managed to fire off one photo, albeit one-handed:

Red grouse
Red grouse.

Having come down off the moor, I went through the mandatory ritual of looking over the wall into the lucky field to see what delight it had in store for me today. Just a couple of rabbits. But then I heard a commotion to my left, and turned to see a merlin in hot pursuit of what I assume was a meadow pipit. They dipped and soared, almost in unison, then disappeared behind a row of pines. There is no mistaking a merlin when they fly like that. Fabulous. Somehow, I don't think the meadow pipit would agree.

Heading down the Nook track later on, I spotted a speckled wood butterfly on some brambles. I am hopeless at identifying butterflies, but, as luck would have it, my guide book fell open at exactly the right page.

Speckled wood butterfly
Speckled wood butterfly.

Back home, early this evening, I was taking some potato peelings out to the compost heap, when I heard a familiar clicking chortle up above: a pair of swallows looping in the clearest of blue skies. They will probably be my last swallows this year. I shall miss them.

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