I love this time of year in the Czech Republic. It is the time before the Winter snows bring their own bright light to the land, when the land is full of contrasts – the silver ethereal shapes of the birches against the dark green of the forest firs, the crimson dogwood, and the light grey of the dead willow leaves. In the forest the ferns are a skeletal white against the moss and the huge red and white domes of fly agaric shine in the gloom. On these November days the sky sometimes has a deep blueness so vast that a whole navy could make their trousers from it and have cloth to spare.
One of the pleasures of this time of year is that all those birds, one has heard for months chattering and calling in the branches and never seen, are made visible – long-tailed tits, blue and coal tits, bramblings, treecreepers and nuthatches, hoards of chaffinches, jackdaws, and jays. The other day I walked down to the train station to such a commotion of birdsong, I just had to smile. A woodpecker was making light work of the bark on an ash tree, indeed so much so that I was hit by a piece of bark it had ripped from a branch. On the swimming pond a pair of mute swans had taken up their serene residence. From the train platform I looked up, above the wood on the hill opposite rooks were surfing the invisible breakers of the wind expertly riding the waves, then cutting back to ride the crest again with great shouts of enjoyment. The Czech birds have a long and hard winter to look forward to and they are enjoying the warmth and fecundity of this November weather while they may.