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I drove out to Defiance on Missouri Route 94 to enjoy the end of what was turning into a delightful (if cold) early February day.

The sun was setting, and as it did so, what had been a quite cloudy day was clearing.

We'd had some snow on Friday, wet stuff on a day that stayed above freezing so little of it settled and stayed but there were still traces. Particularly on the bluffs, here lit by the setting sun.I found a farm track leading out onto the flood plain and drove aways onto the flat, fallow, fields.

It was too cold to spend a lot of time walking, and, beside, the melted snow was turning the bare earth to mud so I stayed pretty close to the car and walked the farm tracks.A pleasant rural view, with only the three tall chimneys of the nearby coal-fired power station silhouetted against the southern sky to remind me of the urban and suburban dwellings not that far away.

Flocks of birds gathered in the surrounding trees or in great pools on the bare ground.

One of these I disturbed – a fantastic flurry of beating wings.