Paul phoned. To say the cranes had just flown over them and would be with us shortly.
I rushed downstairs, grabbed a coat and the dogs and I tumbled out of the front door. And there, sure enough - the first I have seen this year - a great black V, coming out of the western sky, stretching wide. Too distant still to count individual birds but close enough to see how the group ebbed and flowed, broke and reformed.
They followed the ridge on the other side of the valley and I quickly counted, guessing ten, fifty, hundred, two hundred, three, maybe four hundred of them. Vita barked at their cries, uncertain where their unsettling sound was coming from and not thinking to look above her head.
And then, as I turned to come back indoors out of the cold, I saw another line, this time heading straight towards us, bird after bird after bird, right over the cottage, driving forwards, on, on north and east to their summer haunts.
Tonight I will sleep with the window open and even through my dreams will hear the sound of their cries as they pass in the dark.