Posts Tagged ‘birds’

Smells and deer

There has been quite a strong smell hanging over Spring Cottage this weekend. It hit me as soon as I stepped out of the car. I looked into the field at the back of the house and, sure enough, it had just been ploughed up and fertilised. Luckily, it’s not a chemical smell. It’s organic but stinky all the same.

ploughed field

If you enlarge the picture above, as I just did, you can see a small herd of red deer in the field just to the right of the trees. I didn’t even notice them when I took the photograph. Only yesterday I was telling someone that I hadn’t seen deer from the house for quite some time. It may be true, but it doesn’t mean they’re not there.

 

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If you can be distracted from the wondrous moon lying back kicking its feet in the air while it relaxes with Jupiter and Venus, you can scent Spring in the air in the evening. Bulbs are bursting forth and pushing away the covering earth as they rise up to find the light. The plum tree is partially covered with blossom and the branches of the pear are fat with buds. It has also made such a welcome change to have some sunshine and light after so many grey days.

This song thrush sang so persistently and loudly for so long, that I had to stop what I was doing to go out and look for it.

The late afternoon light was lovely and made me regret that I’d been cocooned inside all day in my sometimes lethargic way. But we all occasionally need those kinds of days too.

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Robin’s song

Listening to you out there in the grey, you bring a touch of light to this dark day. Cheesy, but true.

 

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I’m not watching the men’s Wimbledon final, as I have no TV here at the cottage. My days of being interested in tennis are sadly also behind me. Sadly – because I was a great fan as a teenager, even subscribing to a tennis magazine monthly for a while. My father had brought me up on tennis, having once played in a minor ‘plate’ event at Wimbledon in the 1930s. I was rubbish at it and still am but both my children had lessons as I was determined that they would be better than me. They are. At most things, especially maths. Meanwhile, I somehow lost interest in tennis, which I always preferred in black and white anyway. It was easier to see the ball.

Anyway, all this is by way of saying that I have been doing other things this weekend. Riding in the morning yesterday, where I encountered the smallest pony I’ve ever seen – it’s Sue’s three-year-old grandson’s  – at the farm. Rather like a very large dog. The ride was gorgeous – I thought it would be incredibly hot and had slapped on some precautionary sunscreen but we actually spent a lot of time riding through cool and shady woods to the sound of birds calling high up in the tree canopy.

very small pony

Then I went to the Bishop’s Lydeard school fete. There was no ferret racing this year, or guessing the weight of the cake. No, the fete had moved totally into the 21st century, with a cordoned off area where a local driving school (presumably with dual control vehicles) was giving letting kids drive around in their cars. What I would have given to to do that as a child!

Touring the stalls, I swiftly bought a rhurbarb plant for the garden and a delicious raspberry, almond and vanilla loaf cake. Mmm. I took some pictures of it, but my camera ran out of battery and I found that I’d got the wrong charger with me, so uploading them will have to wait. Suffice to say, I’m going to have to try and track down the recipe, it’s that good.

Then in the early evening, I put up a bit of trellis which I’m going to try and train one of the honeysuckles up. I think this is probably a naturally occurring one  – you see that a lot here, all mixed in with hedge, miles from anywhere, so unlikely to have been intentionally planted. The trellis was bought for a song at a car boot sale.

garage and trellis

I’m going to have to be careful, as one thing leads to another when I start working in the garden and, before long, I’m weary and cross, and have run out of time before I have to leave for another working week. So now I’m calling it a day and going inside for a cup of well-deserved tea and a slice of cake. All the other things will have to wait patiently on my ‘to do’ list until next time.

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Sitting in my kitchen working from home today, I can hear incessant birdcalls. So I thought I’d upload some of the images of birds that I’ve taken in the last couple of years at Spring Cottage. They’re not great pictures or very exciting or unusual birds, but as I keep saying – this is principally a record for me and my family and, if anyone else likes it too, then so much the better.

Chaffinch

Chaffinch

When my parents-in-law first moved to the countryside, I was surprised to see the interest with which they watched the birds in their garden. I couldn’t have found anything less fascinating – I just thought, “Birds, so what?”. Now, I can see my children, who are in their early twenties, thinking the very same thing about me, as I get excited by the birds that nest in the garden or feed on the seed I put out.

pheasant in grassy field

Cock pheasant

old bird book

When I was a very little girl, I was given a bird book, so I must have had an interest in birds (although I also had a great uncle who gave me Ladybird books for Christmas until I was at university, so this doesn’t necessarily follow). I coloured in some of the pages with red felt pen and traced a lot of the images of birds over and over again. I wrote my name inside the front cover alongside little pencil hearts. It’s been well-loved and is now falling to pieces with a very broken spine but, despite having other bird books with lovely photographs, it is still this book that lives permanently in the kitchen and that I go back to when I want to identify a bird. Its drawings are clear and the birds are well described, which is more than you can say for a lot of modern books, although I do really rate the RSPB Bird Identifier website.

Sparrow

Sparrow

And while I’m thinking about my childhood, what bird epitomises a city child’s experience of birdlife better the sparrow? Sadly, these days you rarely see what used to be an everyday little bird, although bright green parakeets are now a common sight across London, frightening away the indigenous species with their loud cries. They annoy me in their huge flocks screeching across the skies, but I do enjoy them in my neighbour’s cherry tree, balancing on one leg while they hold a cherry in the claws of the other foot and take bites. This seems so comical.

Dunnock

Dunnock

Greenfinch

Greenfinch

The picture above is a bit of a cheat as I’ve had to enhance it slightly, as it was taken through my kitchen window and looked a bit murky.

robin on a branch

Robin

My favourite bird though, in town and in the country, remains the robin – for its faithfulness and friendliness. There always seems to be one around and they’re quite happy for me to take endless photographs of them, while they sing their hugely under-appreciated and beautifully varied songs.

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I’m actually going to get dressed and get out of the house on this beautiful morning but, before I do, here’s a picture of a pheasant that I snapped in my pyjamas (me, not it, in the pyjamas). It was surprising that I could get so close because the stupid creatures usually scuttle off at the slightest disturbance. The wind must have been in the right direction, for once. I just love their plumage.

pheasant in the sun

In the last few days, I’ve been so struck by the beauty of the robin’s song. Such a small bird with a lovely varied voice – here is the little bird below recorded on my phone today. He or she carried on for ages this morning, adding to the springlike feel of the day.

robin singing

Will say more about the simply delightful hoards of snowdrops in the gardens and other signs of spring soon. Although, if you see the article below, you’ll wonder if this is wise.

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Postscript: 13 Feb 1,774 more or less – pen was hard to write with in the rain.

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Not many words from me today; just a few images of life in the country.

flock of birds in the sky

Taking advantage of thermals

sheep in the fields

Black sheep

close up of tree

Hazel? Someone tell me please...

Bridle path with tree

Bridle path

Evening sky

Somerset sky

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misty day

It’s so gloomy, that it doesn’t even seem to have got light today. Out in the garden it is damp and misty; visibility shifts slowly from one side of the field behind the house to the other and back again, but the blanket of cloud doesn’t lift completely. It is dank. Moisture clings to every surface and hangs in the air. This is what 97 per cent humidity looks like in a cold climate. This is what the Scots call dreich.

The birds flutter back and forth to the feeders hanging from the woodshed, their feathers fluffed up against the cold. Yesterday, they were thin, today the temperature has fallen again. But amongst the bleakness, there are glimpses of colour – a reminder of different times to come.

red branches in the damp

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I’m cutting the mounts for the bird prints that arrived from Italy while I was at a conference last week. I’m a bit ashamed of myself, as I used to make frames from scratch, but nowadays I just buy ready-made frames from IKEA and cut custom mounts for the pictures.

mount cutting materials

I want these pictures to be a modern take on a traditional idea. I just feel a bit bad for the book from which they’ve been cut by the seller…

bad pic of bird pic

But despite my shortcuts I do take the trouble to tape up the back of the frames properly as it stops dirt and moisture getting in and protects the pictures. It takes time but time spent doing something well, is time well spent.

taping up the back of frame

And it was nice to get out my framing bag again and do something creative.

framing bag contents

I’ll post a picture once they’re in situ, which won’t be blurry or by iPhone as this post has been. I’m still pretty impressed that my phone can do ALL of this though.

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Met one of the Quantock Hills AONB Rangers at Cothelstone Hill for a walk to hear the dawn chorus this morning. Most people had come from quite far afield, not like me—just falling out of bed into the car and going up the road. Pitch black when we met at 4.30, it soon started to lighten up and we set off into the woods. Unfortunately the weather deteriorated massively quite quickly and I was soon wet through, despite the apparently ‘for appearances only’ old waxed jacket — my new North Face jacket still being en route from Nepal.

The walk was also actually more of a ‘stand-about talking’ which was disappointing as walking would have kept us warm. I suppose I hadn’t grasped that this was a serious birding walk with eveyone discussing different calls and so forth. All of which would have been fine if the weather hasn’t been so revolting. So I gave up at 6.30 and came home to get dried off, warmed up and to go back to bed.

Having said all this, the birdsong was stunning in those surroundings and I’m tempted to go back another day on my own when there’s not so much people chatter and better weather. Or I could just walk up Broomfield Hill instead, which is closer. The best bit was the incessant cuckoo calling as I’ve never heard a cuckoo in person (in bird?) before. We also heard a tawny owl but I wouldn’t recognise it again I don’t think.

Hoping the weather improves or tomorrow’s first car boot sale of the season at Nether Stowey is going to be a washout too. I have such exciting plans.

Dead rabbit again. Recent. Not sure if Percy the culprit as Lady-Gardener said there’d been one during the week as well. Later: Fairly sure that it was Percy — I just saw him grab Dixie on the scruff the neck in exactly the same place as the rabbits had wet patches and marks on their fur. Percy’s death grip. He’s a cat in fox’s clothing.

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