This looks like a crow to me – mind you so do all the other black birds – except the blackbird of course. This guy was on his own in the field. There was another black bird quite a distance away – certainly not within caw-ling distance. At one time, in my slothful youth, when I noticed one of these guys pacing along the grass verge as I drove past in the car – I always imagined that they had probably dropped a contact lens somewhere and were doing their best to find it with only one eye. On closer acquaintance I now know that this is not the case. Nor are they lost in deep philosophical ruminations.
No, they are just grumpy old sods that find other people irritating.
Well, here’s further proof – if proof were needed – that not being able to see that well and just pointing the camera and pressing the button in hope can pay off. Look at what we have here. A two seater, minicopter sort of thing. Who’d have thought that that thing buzzing around in the sky would have turned out to be something interesting rather than just something annoying?
But what were they doing pottering around over us? Counting sheep? Better done in bed than when flying an aircraft. Looking for fires? Sorry, wrong side of The Solway – and I think they’ve managed to put them all out now.
It was a lovely sunny day – although a little chilly – perhaps they were just taking advantage of the good flying weather?
Well not really further developments – but we do have a new picture of the elm flowers. I think they must be coming to an end now. They’ve gone from a tight ball to something that looks like a (very) miniature bunch of tulips.
Mrs. Grieve mentions that the wood of the elm is very hard and particularly resistant to water and has been used for making water pipes in the past. She lists a few medicinal uses for the bark too.
With so many elm trees dying of Dutch Elm Disease I was really pleased to find this tree. There’s not a lot of them about now. There’s another nice thing about this particular tree and that is, that it is growing down in the ‘gorge’ that the river has cut for itself and right next to the bridge – so I walk right past, and can reach out and touch, the very top of the tree.
Well at last! We have found some Blackthorn flowers! Spring is here!
Admittedly The Dog and I had to travel a little far afield before we came across them but still they are within our circuit – in a hedge up by the main road, actually.
A noisy smelly place full of traffic and exhaust fumes so we don’t often go that far – but we did today and were rewarded with a scattering of white flowers in one of the hedges.
We’ve had the white of the Snowdrops, we’ve had the yellow of the Daffodils, we’ve had the yellow of the Celandine now we go in for the white bushes that take us through to the May (hopefully in May – although some Hawthorns don’t seem to have received this years calendar and are well on in leaf) We have had some brilliant weather, warm – in fact hot in the sun – with clear skies and not enough wind to turn the windmills – no feed in tariff feeding in here!
As we wander the highways and byways (as in, walk round the block) The Dog and I have noticed the large number of large black birds in the fields and on the chimney pots. As the trees have been standing around in their pyjamas for these past few months, it’s been possible to see the large clumps of twigs that sit amongst the branches of a few of the larger of them. These would suggest a rookery. So you would expect that the black birds we see are rooks.
Rooks are sociable birds – they say – and are always seen in flocks or small groups. This guy must have woken up this morning with a headache. He was on his own in the middle of a field – he probably just couldn’t take the racket that the rest of the flock (or parliament if you want to sound as if you know what you’re talking about and don’t care that nobody else understands you) were making.
I can sympathise, they do seem to be a little argumentative – and they do have penetrating voices – and no one to shout “Order. Order!”
I thought – just to keep the record straight we ought to start with a black bird who is a blackbird. He is of course the most consummate musician and, as so many gifted people are, he is a little opinionated.
He is about jazz, man – freedom, expression, being yourself and letting the music flow! He doesn’t do the dots – thinks it must be too boring for words to just play what someone else has written out for you – how would they know how you feel? He absolutely despises that other great musician of the bird world, The Robin. That dismal, whining, folksy, protest stuff just does not do it for him.
I once watched a robin and a blackbird on the lawn. The robin found a worm and set about heaving it out of its wormhole. Immediately the blackbird, with a loud tuk, tuk, tuk and great great fluttering of wings, dive bombed the robin and chased him off – he then finished pulling the worm up and ate it himself.
And so on to the next part of the puzzle – the plot thickens! Here we have a photo from the very next day but in a part of our walk several hundred yards from the first sighting. Now, The Dog and I can step it out when we are on a tight schedule but as a rule we tend to perambulate at more of a meander, so the two sightings could be ten or fifteen minutes apart for us. A bird in a hurry could no doubt cover the distance in a matter of minutes. Still my impression here was of a smaller bird – about the size of a sparrow. So is this a Yellowhammer or is this a Siskin or a Cirl Bunting – see previous post for links. If it either of them is a Yellowhammer then it is on the RSPB red list and needs all the care and attention we can offer.
Well, here’s a conundrum for those who go in for that sort of thing. Just what have we here?
What caught my attention (The Dog was busy in the lower strata of the hedge) was the bright yellow head. I quickly pointed and clicked – this is what I use the camera for, I just don’t really have time for ‘photography’. My impression was that he/she was bigger than a sparrow but smaller than a blackbird. The RSPB offers a yellowhammer that can possibly be confused with a Cirl Bunting – then of course there is always the Siskin Hmmm . . . Any one got any opinion on this?
Still no sign of any Blackthorn flowers. Come on you sloe coaches! We do have daffodils everywhere – standing around in crowds waiting for a wandering poet to notice them – and some very nice Pussy Willows doing their best to keep us entertained until the Blackthorn get here. The Woodland Trust, while offering us a list of alternative names – Sallow, Great Sallow, Goat Willow and more, also mentions that the branches are often used as a replacement for palm branches in church on Palm Sunday (elsewhere on Google – Palm Sunday is sometimes known as Willow Sunday because of this). There is also the suggestion (don’t try this at home kids) that girls who don’t wear a sprig of Pussy Willow to church on Palm Sunday should have their hair pulled.
This is an interesting picture. It is a small red flower on a tree branch. It could be the male flower of an elm tree. Elm trees suffer from Dutch Elm disease and Dutch Elm Disease is a fungus that is associated with the Elm Bark Beetle. Wikipedia notes that the disease is actually from Asia where presumably the elms are resistant to it but it was first identified by a Dutchwoman – so they got the blame. The beetle flies at certain height and so (usually young) trees under that height remain unaffected until they reach a certain maturity. If this is an elm tree it is actually growing in the miniature gorge that our river has carved for itself – so it may be that the beetles are flying straight over and missing it – or maybe the tree just ducks when it sees them coming.
Now and again as The Dog and I walk our walk, Skiddaw peeks over the hills to the south-ish. He may be just checking to see if Scotland is back yet (see our previous post – it is by the way), or he might be just keeping an eye on things. We’ve not had a Spanish Armada in a bit – although it has been said that they are pinching our fish. Still I’m sure he remembers the good old days with fondness. Just in case he’s worrying about it – I’m sure that both Thomas Macaulay and he’ll be pleased to know that The Dog and I are keeping an eye out. So the Spanish better not try anything.
In the hedge opposite the stables there are sometimes a pair (at least) of greenfinches. The part of the hedge they like best is covered with ivy – it’s probably the ivy berries they go there for. But it does make them very hard to see – small green birds in amongst green ivy leaves that are about the size of a small green bird. When the sun shines on them (the sun does shine here – although today you wouldn’t believe it – I blame the sun spots, myself) they glitter in the top of the hedge like tiny parrots.
I understand that they’ve not been very well lately – the population peaked in about 1990 but since 2005 they’ve been hit by some sort of bug that makes it difficult for them to feed. Our lot look and sound healthy enough at the moment so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for them.
The Dog and I walk along, she, happy as long as there’s a puddle to wade through or a strong smelling lump of something to investigate, I, happy as long as there’s something I can take a picture of. On this subject I have to admit that my vision is not what it was and although I do have glasses, I only ever wear them for driving. So I take a lot of pictures – of anything and everything, then when we get home I have a look at them on the computer to see if I can work out what it was or should I say if it’s what I thought it was.
Mostly we get a picture of a branch where a bird had been sitting or a confused jumble of hedge that could easily contain a bird – or a flower, or something else entirely. But sometimes we strike gold. This is a chaffinch (or so we believe) – it’s difficult to think of him as a small brown bird when you see him like this but thirty feet away in the hedge he fits the description perfectly.
There’s one stretch of hedge that The Dog and I walk past often – last autumn patches of it were decorated with the black lustre of sloes. I’d assumed that spring would be heralded in with blackthorn flowers.
Blackthorn is one of the early bird plants (if you don’t count cherry plum and I think we’re too far north for them) flashing its white flowers blatantly before any of the rest wake up. A bit like those irritating people who get up early and then rattle and clatter round the house to make sure that no one else can get any sleep.
Not only is there no sign of blackthorn flowers yet but there’s a hawthorn bush – in a sheltered spot admittedly – that is well on its way to leaf-dom. The blackthorn flowers usually beat the hawthorn by a good few weeks – it looks like we’ve got a dozy lot of slow sloes here.
I’m afraid you need to look closely at the picture. Notice that the snow seems to have fallen in a very neat square lined up with the hedge rows. Now look closely at the group of trees slightly to the right of the centre of the picture – see the house there?
How come the snow just fell on their house? What could they have said to have angered The Gods? Is it some curse from antiquity? Did someone prick their finger on a spinning wheel?
Now, (thank you Google) Chione (also known as Khione), is the Greek Goddess of snow and ice, she was the daughter of Boreas The North Wind. The Greeks even have Glacius who was Persephone’s half brother and made it snow in winter when his sister had to go back to Hades. Things are much more confused on the Norse side but there is Skadi the Goddess Of Winter – and who is also the Goddess of Righteous Anger.
I’ve discovered a secret spring. The water oozes out of the ground leaks into a small puddle then overflows to run down the road and into a drain. I think I’ll build a bottling plant on the site and sell the water, either still or carbonated, to all the supermarkets. I’ll make millions! After all, the raw material is free and bubbling up all the time. If the supply wanes I can always stick a pipe down the drain and recover my lost assets.Anyone with some idle cash like a sure-fire investment? Think of it – money bubbling up out of the ground waiting to be picked up and bottled.
Well here we are at WordPress.com – The old site at Google Sites is still there but we will be trying out WordPress – which is a proper blogging tool rather than trying to force Google Sites to do things that it doesn’t seem happy about. There will be one more post at the old place to add a link to the new place so if you’ve come directly here don’t worry – you haven’t missed anything.
The main reason I’m moving over here is that I hope to be able to allow people to comment on the posts directly instead of having to post on my Facebook page. The problem with Facebook is that there is so much traffic that a lot of stuff just gets lost in the noise.
Maybe we can have the best of both world over here – we’ll see.