There were six Magpies on the Histon Road.
They sat on the hedge by the village sign, three facing me, three away.
Behind them, the dark soil that stretches to Cambridge, and beyond that, seven miles away, red lights visible atop the cranes that currently cower above the Addenbrooke’s site. The sky lightens quickly now, a faint mist hangs on over the ditches. By the time I get into town, there will be bright sunshine.
There are rabbits everywhere, unconcerned by me on my bike. Some of them are very small indeed. Two chase about, launching themselves into the brambles.
Blackbirds set off their alarms as I pass. They are the main soundtrack on mornings like this. I am quiet, but I wonder if I’m prompting them to wake people as I go.
In Cambridge, cutting through a pindrop silent suburban street – I instinctively look up at the windows of the house I rented almost thirty years ago when I first came here – a muntjac stands across the centre of the road. I’m only a few metres from her when she realises and she clatters away between two cars. No sign as I pass seconds later. They are so quick and elusive.
Down the alleyway where I’ve seen a Jay a few times, but no luck today, and out onto the main road. On the work site the walls of the new buildings are alight with the dawn. Carrion Crows and Jackdaws bounce about. There is something wet and red and flat on the road. They’re unhappy as I glide past and disturb them.
The oxeyes on the scrub land around the office are just starting to go over. I lock the bike and walk out into the middle of them. A few Meadow Browns fly up. The air isn’t warm enough or they’d be tumbling around at knee height, but give it a couple of hours. I watch as they drift past the fading flower-heads, and drop to the floor out of sight.
Watching, tracking, idly following the butterflies. Among the daisies, which are overwhelming, here and there are thistles, spiky pink counterpoints amid the white and green. And perched by those, bobbing on a thin stem, a Goldfinch. He is considering the seeds hidden in the head of the thistle.
My favourite bird. An impressionistic flurry, a blushing curlicue of mindfulness and glory. The sum of the summer. The brightest bloom. He outshines the sun. He is perfect.