| When the icy wind drops, the first hint of warmth can be felt in the sun|
|It's a day with no soft edges, the summits of the mountains clear against a flawless blue sky, every face and fold and rocky slope thrown into sharp relief by the quality of the light. The wind carries more than a touch of ice, but when it drops, even for a moment, the first hint of warmth can be felt in the sun.|
A skylark is singing over the fields at Howmore not yet the continual outpouring of spring but intermittent snatches of melody. The tide is low, and the river that winds its way under the bridge and across the beach is flowing onward without any opposition from an incoming sea. Half a dozen cattle wander along its sandy margins, while two more stand hock deep in the river, taking a drink from water that will remain fresh until the tide turns and pushes its way inland along the river's course again.
Nearer to where it meets the sea, the river passes through deposits of weed a couple of feet thick. Today the weed is alive with birds. Starlings work the top layers of the heap, flinging fragments of weed aside in their efforts to discover whatever might lurk beneath. Intent on their foraging, they do not even look up when a party of redshank, alarm-calling loudly, takes off from a feeding spot nearby. Gulls abound: a flock of herring gulls has apparently taken possession of one expanse of weed, while on another a raucous gang of black-headed gulls seems intent on making life difficult for a flock of delicate-looking common gulls.
Further along the beach, away from the weed, it is altogether more peaceful. The tide is at its lowest, and rather than breaking, the wavelets are running noiselessly up the slope of white sand. Dunlin, sanderling and golden plover feed tranquilly at the water's edge while beyond them a sea of emerald green and ultramarine stretches unbroken, until it becomes deep enough for the wind to whip up a scatter of whitecaps.