Country diary: a witchy barn owl swoops across a wintry landscape

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Thixendale, North Yorkshire: In the hazy winter light, hares and partridges blend into the grass and fields

Up beyond the scarp of the Wolds, there is still some snow. And despite a clear, pearly blue and apricot dawn, by noon the light has gone flat under hazy cloud – a soft white sun illuminating a muted Eric Ravilious-style landscape. Dappled snow picks out north-facing slopes and the slight reliefs of the tracks and trails, the fencelines and earthworks. Hedges and trees are etched in charcoal.

In the trees, owl boxes have been installed by another artist, my friend Robert Fuller. Beneath the most popular perches there are pellets and blobs of white paste. Rubbed between the fingers, these chalky droppings are as smooth as a cosmetic cream. I wonder if they’ve ever been used as pigment, and resist an urge to run a streak across my nose, like Adam Ant.

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