Watching my neighbour clean his windows is a note worthy event. The wind rattling the shutters is remarkable. The cat woke up in a bad mood and won’t be stroked because there is snow static in the air. I think a hen harrier flew by, but it might just be a seagull disoriented by being so very far from the sea. The news is always bad, or maybe it’s just funny like the electric spark from the end of the cat’s nose or the last leaf whirled skittishly from the bare tree or just January, just January leaving.
There really does seem little to look at in late January.
The ground is as hard as a stone, the water is all frozen and my greatest wildlife achievement is to put boiling water out for the birds. I pick out the flower shaped ice from the bird bath and fill it with water that stays liquid for half an hour. The great tits are the first to flutter down for a drink, a robin drinks and so too do the blue tits.
The “pond” we made from a sunken sink is glassy with solid ice and a big black cat sits in the middle of the ice and scrabbles with his claws at the ice to melt a corner to drink from. I decide it is interesting to see wild behaviour from semi domestic cats: it is something to see .
There are two greater spotted woodpeckers and a Siskin has turned up to eat the sunflower kernels. There are now 11 bramblings about in the garden. Last year we had none and the year before the sky was black with these bright birds. It all depends on how the winter is in the far north of Europe. The bramblings seem to say it is coldish, but not perishing yet this year.
A stork has returned to his/her nest site in the next village. He is early and as yet alone, but I take it as an omen of the spring to come and hope he will soon be a pair and the nest will be made even larger for the chicks and the thaw to come.
I know winter is far from over, that February is the coldest, hardest month and is yet to come, but today there was a change of the light . There was a breath of spring somewhere, even if it was only in the blue sky behind the snow clouds and I thought of Edward Thomas’ lovely short poem.
Thaw Edward Thomas 1917?
Over the land freckled with snow half-thawed
The speculating rooks at their nests cawed
And saw from elm-tops, delicate as flowers of grass,
What we below could not see, Winter pass.
This picture is the underside of a Victoria amazonica leaf that had just been hauled out of the water at the botanic gardens in Basel. It was so huge and so extraordinarily spiny it had to be photographed .
Last night I watched the incomparable Green Planet from the BBC with the similarly unequalled David Attenborough. He showed the aquatic battles for light that go on in clean rivers and wetlands between the plants that float and fight so slowly in this apparently peaceful world . The most memorable Timelapse shots were of the gigantic shoots of the Amazon waterlilly sweeping the water clear of other plants to make space for the titanic unfolding of a new leaf. The leaf was armored with the fiercest dagger spines which I well remember gingerly touching in the sunshine outside of the hot house, as the Basel trams rumbled on by . The spines could crush and pierce anything that got in its way as the leaf covered the water in its metre wide plate of photosynthesising aggression.
Ironic that the flower is seen as symbolizing peaceful serenity.
Shows how little we really know!
It is the brown time.
Ploughed fields and bare trees in the sleety rain. The clouds are full of snow that doesn’t fall and sun that blinds momentarily and is then gone swallowed by a slab of racing grey .
We are counting red kites for the LPO ( French bird charity) Red kite survey. They are rare in the Alsace outside of the Vosges Mountains and just where we live on the edge of the Jura Mountains. I see one most days from the garden and more when they move through on migration in spring and autumn.
I am glad to be in the car, as all the various hunts are out this cold Sunday and the chance of being shot seems abnormally high.
Over two days of watching we have seen 13 red kites ( Milan royal) all together, but a few may have been the same bird counted twice.
There have been a few blackbirds, crows a raven and a kestrel and then thousands of little birds flowed over the brow of the hill. Chaffinches and bramblings poured over unexpectedly and covered the bare trees like so many leaves against the sky.
Nothing to see really.
This article from the Guardian news paper describes the astounding new species of plants that have been found across the world this year.
It also shows how many are endangered and how often it is deforestation to make space for palm oil plantations that is to blame.
I just checked the ingredients on my goat’s cheese pastry parcels that we had just eaten for lunch and sure enough , there was palm oil in the pastry. It is a cheap, almost ubiquitous ingredient and I am determined not to buy a single thing that contains it ever again.
My New year resolution is always wear my glasses in the supermarket and check more carefully in future!
Hundreds of new species include pink voodoo lily and an ylang-ylang tree named after Leonardo DiCaprio
— Read on www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/jan/06/ghost-orchid-that-grows-in-the-dark-among-new-plant-finds
New year: old year.
Covid hasn’t gone, but maybe we have changed instead.
Everybody has had their own adaptations to the new reality that nobody wanted, everybody has had their own privations, some small, some fatal. Work, family, school, friends the list goes on and on of the things changed by the pandemic that seems to never end. The things we miss seem endless too, but in a world turned upside down, we have maybe learned to see things differently and not to miss the things we took for granted before.
My cat is perfectly happy upside down on the sofa. He is warm, there will be food, maybe someone will dangle that left over Christmas ribbon close enough for him to play with. He has lost one of his lovely long front teeth, but he doesn’t seem unduly worried by it.
He quite likes the world upside down, he can get used to anything.