Thursday, 31 December 2009

The red and the green

The Mountain Hawk Eagle, monarch of the Aizu skies, had hit a bird above the village and landed to eat it on a hillside path. It's talons had slashed the snow in hand-sized rakes as it tore it to pieces, a graphic image of the struggle to eat or be eaten in the long, hard winter. The small birds have it hard, and come right up to your feet, pecking through anything you disturb while shovelling snow: mud, leaves, anything. I tried to give one bread, but it didn't recognise it as food, and ignored it.

The kamoshikas (Japanese mountain serows) and hares in their winter coats scrabble at the steep banks, where it is easier to make a patch of snow slide down rather than having to dig it all up, to find plants underneath. They make good use of the woodland paths above the village, and their prints are everywhere around small exposed sections of greenery, the moss and small-leaved specialist plants thriving in surprising lushness beneath the snow.

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