We had heavy rain during the night, so we set off down the road towards the bridge over the beck – we wondered how he’d coped with the downpour.
Making our way in that direction, we became aware of birdsong from the hedge on our left. We’d noticed a small brown bird flitting in and out of the leafless branches so, with the help of the chirping, we were reasonably sure where our songster was. But, search as we might we could not pinpoint the location of the sound, nor could we see anything that looked like a bird anywhere in amongst the branches.
We took one further step and a small brown bird flew out not six feet from us. He had been right under our noses, but his brown feathers in the brown of the bare branches had been perfect camouflage.
It was a dunnock, he (or she) of the strange social arrangements.
Depending on the food supply their inter-gender relationship can vary from one to one (male – female), to one female to any number of males or one male to any number of females. DNA tests on dunnock chicks from the same nest often find that they each have a different father.
And we humans thought we invented that.
Here in the UK, the one thing we excel at is having the wrong kind of almost everything. When we lay railway tracks we make sure that the trees growing alongside the lines have the wrong kind of leaves. We have become quite expert at ensuring that when the leaves fall on the track they bring the entire rail network to a standstill.
The other, related, issue is snow. While in other places on the planet they merely bring out whatever equipment they usually use to deal with the snow on the train tracks, we smugly sit back and pour ourselves another cup of tea, secure in the knowledge that it wouldn’t work here – we have the wrong kind of snow.
So then, when the annual springtime appearance of a carpet of crocuses (croci for the purists among us) turns our thoughts to saffron, it will no doubt be reassuring for you to know, there’s no need to panic, we have the wrong kind of crocus.
This is one of our resident Buzzards. In today’s photo we find him doing what buzzards do best, sitting and thinking.
He has a great deal to think about. Ahead of him stretches a whole new year, but first he must deal with Spring, Spring is an exhausting time for buzzards. It doesn’t start so badly. At first, as the animals that have spent the colder months hibernating start to waken, the old and the unwell, unable to face another year of the struggle to survive, crawl unsteadily from their places of security. They stand around, bemused, on open ground and in the middle of roads, waiting for some kindly passing predator to put an end to their suffering. Buzzards take their duty seriously.
As Spring edges towards and on into Summer though, the tsunami of young inexperienced animals that sweep down on every road, intent on throwing themselves under the first available vehicle, raises road-kill to epic proportions.
Unable to deal with the availability of so much food, our buzzard will fall back on instinct. He finds himself a nice dead branch, adopts a nonchalant pose, and sits and thinks.
I love to paddle in a puddle
I’ll bet you do.
I love to paddle in a puddle
Up to my knees.
Jackie and I have been laid low with seriously-sick-and-ill-itus this week, with the result that a good few days have just vanished into a big, vague, grey box. We haven’t been out and about to take many pictures – but when I looked through those we had, I found this picture of one of our blackbirds. He was just playing in the puddle and ignored us completely. He was thoroughly enjoying himself.
Just what we needed to cheer us up.
On 21st February 2014 I had a picture of this flower – it was the first flower of the spring. He is a real pioneer, boldly going where angels fear to tread. Whenever he appears we know that spring is only three or four weeks away and we can expect the snowdrops and crocuses to ‘spring’ up during that time.
This year, here we are 3rd February, and he has already committed himself to the future, with a sprinkle of snowdrops that bode well for the coming weeks – and a few early crocuses, too.
It has been quite mild this winter. Looking back over the previous year, Summer came early, Autumn seemed to be in frantic rush to get the whole business over. Then Winter came along all cool and collected, didn’t see the point really, sat down, put his feet up and hunted around for the TV remote. He’s sat there since November, he’s been here if you wanted him – but he wasn’t bothered if you didn’t.
True we’ve had several days with good hard frosts, but I suspect that those were a mistake. They sort of happened when he sat up too quickly and spilt his coffee.
I just don’t know what Spring will say when she gets here.
We have snowdrops! They are a little early, but we shouldn’t complain – they’re only trying to be prompt. They actually aren’t due until Candlemas on February 2nd.
As there are none of the original Celts around at present, and as the current trend is towards alternative truths, it is hard to know what to believe. It would seem, though, that it all goes back the Brighid, a Celtic Goddess. Fire was one of Her responsibilities, so the arrival of snowdrops – looking like small candles – was presumed to be a sign that now would be a good time to light a candle and scare all the hob-goblins of Winter away. Cunningly, Spring was waiting in the wings, so this ritual stood a good chance of working.
Of course, if we were going to scare all sorts of nasty boogie-men away it would be good if we all got together – just in case (there being safety in numbers and all that). If we’re going to have a get together, well – we might as well have a party, mightn’t we?
The early Christians certainly didn’t want to miss out on a good party so they imported Brighid – lock, stock and candles – into Christianity as Saint Bridget and Candlemas.
If you want older than Celtic, then there’s always the candles that Demeter used to search the Underworld – looking for her daughter Persephone (who brought the Spring with her when she came back up to Earth). The Ancient Greeks had a word for it.
So much choice for such a small unassuming flower.
‘I rather like this time of year. Don’t you?
‘It’s a time for just floating along, relaxing; a time for taking stock of the year behind us.
‘Relishing last year’s little successes, and finding suitably soothing excuses for the times when we found ourselves, shall we say, not performing at our most optimum. Hopefully,if we were unlucky enough to have the latter, they will, by now, be starting to show their warm, fuzzy, rose-tinted edges.
‘Spring is on its way, you know – and then we’ll be off on another giddy roundabout. Mate, eggs, chicks. For goodness sake, the very thought of it is enough to make you moult your tail feathers.
‘No need to get all flustered yet, though. We still have a few more weeks of this nice peace and quiet. Plenty of time to float gently by, while the world picks itself up, dusts itself off, and takes a few deep breaths.
‘You could use this time to plan campaigns for the coming year, I suppose. But why? The coming year will arrive soon enough of its own accord, bringing with it all its flamboyant furore.
‘Personally, I find it best to use this time of year for quiet reflection.’