The Excitement Mounts

Robin On The Hedge

Robin On The Hedge

As we wait, impatiently, for Spring to arrive there are a number of boxes that must be ticked. First, the appearance of the snowdrops, next, usually the crocuses, then the daffodils start to blow their own trumpets. Around this time the Robin starts singing.

Most birds only sing in Springtime – it’s part of the mating rituals and defines their territory (a bit like singing in opera, a good loud voice gets you the best offers.) First, we have a warm-up period where the birds sing in the middle of the hedges or lower branches of trees, often quietly almost to themselves. Soon they get the measure of the competition and start to throw their chest out and give it all they’ve got – from the top of the trees or hedges.

The Robin starts the show. A few weeks later the Blackbird will begin whistling quietly to himself in secret. The Thrush is no shrinking violet; he takes up pole position on the top of any convenient tree and belts his song out at full volume. This prods the Blackbird into action and shortly after he, too, begins his variations on a theme that last until Summer.

Here’s the Robin, as you can see he has braved the top of the hedge – things must be hotting up in the mating game.

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Memories

Chinese New Moon In Supermarket Carpark

Chinese New Moon In Supermarket Carpark

I got out of the car in the supermarket carpark and there, straight ahead of me, was the new moon that had heralded the Chinese New Year a few days ago – so I took its picture, as you do.

Later, getting out of the car at home I looked up and, with less light pollution, a clear sky and almost no moon, the stars glittered their way over my head, from the woods behind the house to the Scottish border. And there was my old friend Orion.

Seeing him took me back a good few years – to when The Dog, a mere slip of a girl in those days, needed someone with her when she went out to do her business in the dark.

I would stand there waiting, and on one clear night, as Orion was pushing his shoulders up into my view I noticed, on the other side of the sky, Venus just setting into the dark clouds along the horizon. So I wrote a poem, as you do.

The Hunter strides upon his way, his sword by his side
Following, following, following with every stride
Westward ever westward but he seeks no game
Still, the thrill of the hunt is on him just the same
This game he plays with a Lady, beautiful and serene
She knows he follows after and makes sure that she is seen
She beckons him on with her eyes but every time he nears,
because she is a Lady, she turns and disappears.

Hope you like it.

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Mist

Sheep In The Mist

Sheep In The Mist

The mist moves ’round like circling wolves.
They prowl just beyond sight.
The edge of thought holds them at bay.
I feel them still through this grey light.

The mist hangs heavy, pressing down.
A weight so light to bear.
Sound, dull yet sharp, comes from beyond.
Unreal and strange in this dank air.

The flock, close by, stand, in mixed greys.
Their forms nought but vague mounds.
Are they real or ghostly earth,
Living just in my minds bounds.

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A Hard Choice

Young blackbird

Young blackbird

Spotted this guy in next door’s holly hedge this morning. At first, I jumped to the conclusion that the spotted breast meant that we had a thrush here. We do have a local thrush, but he only makes himself known as spring nears, usually by singing, very loudly, from the top of the silver birch tree near the gate in the evenings. Once he announces his presence we expect to hear the similar, but less repetitive, voice of the blackbird as he, too, moves on from his chiding ‘tk tk tk’ as we walk past him in the hedge, to a full-blown improvisation from the larger of the bushes, and, as spring settles in, from the gable end of the roof.

However, on further consideration, we have decided that this guy is probably a juvenile blackbird. Despite the eponymous intimations, blackbirds are only black sometimes. As juveniles, they are often greyish-brown with a spotted chest – betraying the fact that they belong to the thrush family. I’m fairly sure that this guy will be a nice even black with a bright yellow beak by the end of summer.

When it comes to vocal accomplishments, the thrush certainly has the volume – though some might say he lacks imagination. But the blackbird is the master musician, his never-ending variations on a theme are a pure delight.

 

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I Can See For Miles And Miles

Criffel on the skyline

Criffel on the skyline

After a mild but cloudy few days, today was more wintery. It was bright and cold, and with the cold came dry clear air.  In fact, it was so dry that all the wet roads dried out  – leaving us with a light dusting of frost on the fields and verges, and occasional patches of solid ice where the night’s rain had left a slightly deeper puddle. The sun shone down on us, but with very little warmth and the frost and ice tended to just ignore it.

Once again, I had forgotten to put my gloves on when we left the house. Gloves complicate everything, from fitting the key in the lock when locking the door – to pressing the shutter release on the camera. You spend double the time and effort, perhaps even triple: take your gloves off; do what needs to be done; put your gloves back on, and repeat every half a minute. Naturally, today, when I came to press the power button on the camera – my fingers were so cold and numb it took longer than if I had had my gloves on.

With the sun being so low in the sky at the moment, we generally walk downhill – into the sun, only stopping at The Dog’s insistence – until we get to the beck. Then we walk home, up the hill, with the sun at our back. This gives us better photo opportunities. This was one of those opportunities. The mountain on the skyline is Criffel, and it is miles and miles away, over the other side of the Solway Firth, in Scotland.

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A Bit Early

First Snowdrops

First Snowdrops

You know when you have people coming to visit, and you said about two-ish? Then at two o’clock you just need to have a quick vacuum round and then everything will be ready, so you get the vacuum out and pull the wire out all over the floor and are down on your knees messing around with wall plugs to try to find the one you can take out without switching something important off? You finally find a spare socket and plug in and are about to switch on – when there is a knock at the door.

Your guests are standing there. ‘Hello,’ they say, ‘You did say two o’clock, didn’t you?’ as they notice you in your tracksuit bottoms with the vacuum in your hand.

We find ourselves in a similar situation. Here we have Snowdrops springing up all over the place and we really thought they wouldn’t be here before the end of January. A few more days, a week or so at the most, and we’d have everything in apple-pie order – but no they’ve turned up now.

Well, what would you do? Shall we sit them down with a cup of tea while we finish the cleaning then go and get changed? Or shall we try to bluff it and pretend they’re right on time and that we were just putting the vacuum away?

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A Place to Ponder

shadow at the railings

shadow at the railings

It was a nice this morning, so when we came to the bridge over the beck, I stopped to look over the railings.

The beck was chuckling away to itself in a contented sort of way – not as if someone had told a funny joke but more because it was feeling pleased. Everything that shouldn’t be there was being washed off downstream – and anything that should be there had been manoeuvred safely to somewhere it would stick. Life was organised and arranged to its complete satisfaction.

The hedges, as we wove our way down the hill, were full of the cheerful cheeping of various assorted small birds and we had received a warm ‘tic, tic, tic,’ from a passing blackbird. The nasty cold wind of the last few days had blown itself out and there were only a few small fluffy clouds to mar the blue of the sky.

Standing there, the sun was warm on my back – a pleasant change indeed – the sun doesn’t have much time for us these days. He is putting in a lot of overtime down in the southern hemisphere at the moment, you know.

The general feeling of relaxed contentment was contagious and I stood there for a while contemplating my shadow, thrown on the far bank.  Is this, I wondered, what they mean when they talk about our ‘Comfort Zone’? The Dog finished snuffling in the brambles and became restless enough to interrupt my reverie, so, reluctantly, I left my warm spot and started back up the hill, homeward.

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