We found ourselves tussling with the fag-end of Storm Hector on Thursday, as it exhausted itself gusting round the neighbourhood. It closed the market early as stallholders gave up the battle to keep their goods and stands in one place, and dumped leafy branches in the path of unwary motorists.
It reminded me of a more than breezy walk last February. Look! Here are the grasses edging the wetlands at Staveley Nature Reserve.
Wildlife has had a tough time getting going this year. Bluebells late, lilac late, bird migrants late – where are our swifts, diving and swooping in the evening skies, gorging on feasts of flies before night sets in?
At last though, mallard ducklings have appeared on the village pond. There seem to be three families: tiny ducklings; some a few days bigger; and one lot who could be described as teenagers. Apart from having little in the way of wings yet, they look pretty grown up. We idled away part of the afternoon the other day, just watching them scuttle and swim.
It’s as well they breed so prolifically, those ducks. The babies have little chance of making it to adulthood. The resident goose doesn’t like them. Jealous drakes don’t like babies who aren’t their own. Foxes like them alright, but as a snack. And then there’s the road, though drivers try hard to avoid these creatures, who simply haven’t learnt their Green Cross Code. My favourite sight from last year was seeing a mighty dustbin lorry shudder to a halt, and wait while Mrs. Mallard led her brood of seven efficiently across the busy road.
Last Monday, towards evening, the place to be was our home. We dashed from window to window, watching as dozens, then hundreds, then thousands of starlings descended on the trees round our house. They weighed down the branches, then in coordinated waves – responding to some urge we could not understand – they swept skywards, tearing across the garden, swooping, diving, before briefly settling again to repeat the performance again and again for a whole three-quarters of an hour, before finally disappearing to settle near the river for the night.
So near to our house, those mesmerising formations of groups of birds twisting and turning in harmony, as if in some graceful aerial dance weren’t so apparent as they are at a distance. We were rewarded instead by seeing them at close quarters, rising, landing and rising again from the trees near our house.
At Christmas, Tom & Sarah gave us a night camera, so we could see what went on in the garden after dark. So far no bears, wolves or lynx have revealed themselves. Sadly, no foxes, badgers or deer either, though we know they’re there: we just have to find the right spot.
This week however, with all the snow, the garden took on an other-worldly aspect. And the rabbits came out as little as possible. But here’s one who braved the cold. Please note the temperature.
And in the morning, as short periods of sunshine briefly melted the snow, we spotted, apart from rabbit prints…
…. and pheasant prints …..
….. human bootprints too.
Although I rather liked these ghostly negative image prints. I thought they looked out of this world.
And we had to visit the new exhibition about colour, The Rainbow Revealed. Here’s William, sitting in the light tent, soothed by the calming green light that followed the vigorous energizing magenta.
Just before home time, we came upon this dinosaur. He lives out his days in the primaeval forest created in the Horniman Museum Gardens. The primaeval plants are currently protected from the winter storms by very unprimaeval plastic, which slightly spoils the effect.
A fine day.
Click on any image to see it full size. These are smart phone photos. Not so smart really.
Winter’s not been around in recent years, not really. Those crisp snowy days we all seem to remember from our childhood, those snowball fights, those Jack Frost patterns etched our bedroom windows, those chilblains – all seem to be ancient history.
This week in London, where we had an early unofficial Christmas with William and family, winter arrived for one day only before becoming sunny and mild again. Look at these ducks and gulls in the local park, standing in puzzled uncertainty or ineptly skating on a frozen pond. One day only was quite enough for them.
For a few weeks now, we’ve been watching the geese. At first just a few, but in the last week or so, huge skeins of them in groups of V formations take over the sky, honking as they fly, at about half past eight in the morning.
Saturday was The Big One. Two thousand or more birds invaded the sky above. And somehow, though we were looking out for them, we missed them. These are the birds, far fewer, that flew over yesterday.
I’ve spent time on the net, trying to find out more about where they’re coming from, or going to. All I know is that while they’re here, they enjoy scavenging in the recently harvested fields, and Mecca, for them is the wetlands of the former quarries at Nosterfield. And I also know that their massed flights mean that summer is over.
We’re migrating too, albeit temporarily. We’re off to Poland, my father’s country of birth. If I can I’ll do a daily post while I’m there.