Hedge-bandit, song-bomb, dart-beak, the wrenCarol Ann Duffy The Wren Boys
hops in the thicket, flirt-eye; shy, brave,
grubbing, winter’s scamp, but more than itself –
ten requisite grams of the world’s weight.
The year turns at 04:48 (UT) on 22 December this year. As always it can't come soon enough though there's no doubt that this year the incredibly mild autumn and winter have helped shorten the journey into the shortest day.
Without the delights of growth and abundance to attract--or maybe distract--the eye, there's the time and space to notice different things.
One Saturday morning, we look out to see a wren walking on water... almost. The pool near the house is thronged with pondweed elbowing aside the water lilies and keeping them confined to their own end of the pond. All of these are strong enough to bear the weight of one small wren who delicately balances on the Canadian pondweed and pecks through it for tiny invertebrates that we can barely see. 'Dart-beak' indeed! We're surprised and delighted.
Other birds in the garden at the moment are more raucous (starlings), more noticeable (wood pigeons) or more infrequent in their visits (greenfinches, mistle thrushes), but all are equally welcome. The whirr of wings, the squabbles, the flitting movement scarcely seen, the tossing aside of leaves and twigs in the quest for grubs and worms, the gathering around the feeder: a winter garden with birds is a lively place; without them it's so much more dull and lifeless. We've had a severe reduction in the number of birds over the last couple of years, mainly down to neighbours' cats. I do wish that those who share their homes with cats would keep them indoors... I've no problem with what I think of as 'food chain predation': it's not pleasant to see a magpie or a sparrow hawk take some sparrows or robins, but they do it to feed their own young. Well-fed suburban cats simply do it because it's in their nature, and that sort of hunting upsets the balance very quickly in the tiny ecosystem of a few suburban back gardens.
Only a little bit away from the garden, on a another walk, I catch a heron taking flight on a grey winter's afternoon, disturbed by one small grey schnauzer rummaging on the banks.
|Heron on the Slang|
|Heron on the wing|
Late autumn and early winter have been warm, but oh the rain! We've had nothing like the flooding in the west of the country, but the rivers have been swollen and the skies leaden.
|Swollen river after the rains|
|A shower heads up the Irish Sea|
|Ochres and umbers in the winter light: a seaweed holdfast and a bicycle chain cassette|
Speaking of science, here's a new word I learnt on Twitter of late: cladoptosis (cladop = branch; ptosis = falling). After Storm Desmond swept through these islands, I noticed--as always after a winter storm--that many of the trees in the park had dropped small branches and twigs. I've always considered this as a sort of self-pruning and indeed it is! While some of the branches we see on the ground have broken in storms, many of them are shed cleanly by the tree, leaving neat abcission scars behind. A bit like the leaf-shedding of deciduous trees, though writ large. It ensures that the tree sheds the weaker branches which will include those that are not displaying their leaves in the optimum display (to catch the most light possible). All of this helps the tree remain strong and healthy and it's such a neat process.
|Branches as well as leaves are shed in the autumn and winter|
|A bird's eye view of ivy leaves with just the right arrangement to get as much light as possible|
Happy Solstice all.