Saturday, 30 March 2013

The white Black Mountain, and bird-watching

Like everywhere else, spring is coming slowly to our valley.  There are a few Primroses out and Celandines, but they look rather tatty from being battered by this constant wind - I think it must be on holiday from the Falkland Islands where my husband tells me "the wind blows all the time."  The Dog's Mercury has been out for weeks, and now the Ramson (wild Garlic) leaves have just burrowed up through the earth and last week I was delighted to see the happy little faces of the Windflowers dancing on the bank by the junction.

I am trying to walk daily again now.  Not very far at present, but I need to stretch my legs as I keep getting twinges of Sciatica.  My back is definitely "out" but bearable.  The trip to the Chiropractor will have to wait for the moment.  Anyway, I took my camera with me when I walked up the hill yesterday, as I wanted to get a photo of Black Mountain still in her winter wraps.  She looks rather splendid and primeval against the monochrome foreground.

I was bird-watching yesterday and imagine my delight when I spotted a Goldcrest in the hedgerow.  It flew off, startled by my approach, but when I stood quietly, it returned and I was able to see it properly.  It is only the 4th I have ever seen.  One in Dorset, one down by the Mill last summer, and one last week - which one of those intrepid hunters (the boys) brought it into the kitchen, already dead . . . 

It looks just-fledged doesn't it?  A very early brood in that case.  Not sure if it could be a young Firecrest - they have bronzey shoulders, but this one is still too fluffy to tell.  They are apparently members of the kinglet family of birds . . . Old World Warblers according to Wikipedia.

Early-morning light across the paddock.  Our stream runs through this little copse, and the trees towards the back are ones that have grown in and around the old abandoned mill-pond. I wanted to capture this warm morning light, and the very special "March-light" which has such clarity later in the day.

This morning I was up at 6 and as I pulled the half-landing curtains, I could see Miffy on the trackway the far side of the lane, out hunting unsuspecting baby rabbits I will assume.  However, so was the dog fox I photographed last week.  They must have come face to face, as I saw the white of Miffy turn and run back across the lane, and then hurtle across the paddock with the fox - interested but not in hunting mode - following her.  She ran across the garden and into the hole in the corner where they all come and go, and he trotted up on the rockery, by which point I was at the front door and rapped on it.  he looked at me over his shoulder, totally unfazed, and then followed Miffy through the gap.  I called Miffy and she ran across the farmyard and back into the other end of the garden and the fox loped off down the trackway at the back of the slurry lagoon.  I wonder what happens under cover of darkness?  These two obviously have a stalemate.

As I opened the front door, two small flights of birds hurtled overhead, wings scything - no, cleaving is the word I wanted (thank you Robert Frost!)  the air with a very audible swoosh.    They were migrating Starlings, a bird we don't often see around here, but which are finding food locally at the moment.  As I write there are more going over - 6 to a dozen in each little group heading up the valley towards Jim's.  A couple of hundred more have settled in the big Ash trees above the farm.  They are making little flight-forays across the farmyard and back in a swooping loop to the tree.  Every now and then small groups break off and fly up the valley.  They are fascinating to watch.

 Last week when I opened the front door first thing, it was a party of male Blackbirds - one being pursued by 4 others, obviously in a territorial dispute. There are many Blackbirds locally and when I was out in the car on Thursday, it was Blackbirds, Thrushes, and Chaffinches I saw most of.  There are such gangs of Chaffinches about locally and yesterday we drove down the hill through a perfect storm of Chaffinches!  Magic : )

Saxifraga oppositifolia - well it was called that but they have recently changed its name, but I can't remember what to - in English it is Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage.  It grows by the acre in the wet woodlands round here, on banks, ditches - everywhere.  An insignificant little "flower" but a harbinger of spring.


  1. I've only ever seen three Goldcrests and one Firecrest. What a sweet little thing!

  2. I do hope Miffy isn't challenging the fox--I think a cat might be slightly faster on the move, but foxes are great pouncers.
    Your descriptions of birds and plants always delight me--many similar to the Eastern US but some that I don't recognize.

  3. Lovely post Jennie. Have a good Easter weekend all of you. xxx

  4. Found the reference to Goldcrests now :) So glad you are seeing more of them. They are such cute beautiful little birds and can be surprisingly tame.

    I do love your photo of Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage - it must look wonderful in such large numbers :) Reading your post has made me want to go for a country walk - I really must try and go somewhere next week.