Signs Of Spring In Rookery Wood

The things I do. Yesterday’s twilight with its magnificent post-storm sky had me standing on the cabin bed in my study and resting my camera on the open rooflight. If I use lots of zoom I can spy on the rooks in the wood on Sytche Lane.  At this time of year there’s much to watch. For one thing they are making some serious extensions to their old nests.

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For another, now is the time when the more spectacular ‘fly pasts’ begin. There seem to be two modes. The first kind involves a sudden outburst in the rookery (there are jackdaws in the wood too). For no apparent reason all the roosting birds whoosh out over the meadow, bowl around in a swirling mass and then return to the trees as if nothing had happened. The second kind is a much bigger production and usually happens around sunset or shortly afterwards. It seems to be about a gathering in of rook cohorts from the four quarters, a reconfirmation of rookery membership perhaps (?) –  this after their day’s foraging around the fields.

As they return to the rookery so the aerial dance begins: sometimes high above Townsend Meadow, at others in high-speed mass swoops at ground level. It is very exhilarating. And perhaps that’s it. The display is an expression of rookish joi de vivre. And why not? If I were selling my house, I would say the view of rooks from the study rooflight is a very particular asset, though maybe not for the ornithophobic or anyone with a tendency to vertigo.

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Spiky Squares #18

copyright 2019 Tish Farrell

Thursday’s Special: Desert Dawn

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We’ve been suffering serious gales and wetness in the UK, and it’s set to persist, bluster and precipitate for several more days yet. Which has me thinking of dryness and deserts and heat and stillness and no wind. This photo was taken early one morning in the desert outside Dubai. It was around 5 a.m. and I had just given up the battle of trying to sleep in an igloo tent while close by our guide snored loudly in the open back of his 4×4. And when I walked out alone and saw all this, what could I say. Who cares about mangled limbs and a sleepless night? Why would I?

Thursday’s Special  This month Paula challenges us to show her any or all of the following: inversion . circuitous . corniculate . sabulous . interstice . I’m definitely claiming the last two in this shot, and also some circuitous tyre tracks. And then there’s inversion – the up and down-ness of the dunes and sand ruts, the light versus shade, the cool of sunless valleys versus sun-warmed peaks. I suppose at a push too, you might say the distant small lumps and bumps are reminiscent of newly erupting horns?

copyright 2019 Tish Farrell

February’s Changing Seasons: All Catkin Gold In Wenlock

The last day of February, and we had been promised a change in the weather, an elemental side-swipe from the Atlantic bringing an end to our surprise spring fling and our ‘nearly 10 degrees warmer than usual’. So I thought I’d better get this written yesterday as a small celebration of a final perfect day (cue Lou Reed). At lunchtime the errand of posting a letter turned into a full-scale ramble around the town. It had to be done. The sun was hot, the air still, and the lane to Downs Mill beckoned. But first there were the highland cattle to commune with, and bees and tortoiseshell butterflies in the Cutlins cherry blossom, and on the lane past the priory ruins there were sunny banks of violets and celandines, while in the parkland fields on either hand, sheep-mothers-to-be were quietly grazing, waiting for lambs to happen.

Here, then, are some scenes from my perfect Much Wenlock day. Thank you, beneficent nature entities, and especially for all those happy humming bees in the cherry tree.

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And now for the ‘aaah’ moment:

 

 

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P.S. The weather people were right. We woke to rain on the skylight and grey skies and February more as we know it.

 

Changing Seasons: February 2019

 

Strange Cloud Over The Edge And Other Isolated ‘Objects’

The Allotment Power Line. I take many photos of this particular pole:

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Ash Tree in Townsend Meadow and sun setting over Wenlock Edge:

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A mysterious item found on my way to the allotment. It might just be a dinosaur egg about to hatch. It has anyway disappeared since I took this photo:

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My summer path to the allotment – a throng of Queen Anne’s Lace:

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Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Isolated Objects

Maasai Mara Landscape ~ A Warrior’s View

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I’ve written about the Maasai Mara in other posts. Here’s an excerpt from a piece that was long-listed in the Brandt Travel Guide competition ages ago:

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Night on the Mara River – darkness wraps round, close as a Maasai’s blanket.  It is cold, too, on the river’s bend. We press closer the campfire, our white faces soon roasting red. No one speaks. There’s too much to listen for. A hyena whoops across the water?  It sounds close. It sounds unearthly, sending shock waves through vulnerable bones – mine, conjuring packs of predators, out there, circling our ring of light. And even as I think it the Maasai are on us.  Six warriors, spears in hand and naked to the waist.  Their leader tosses his ostrich-feather head-dress that looks like a lion’s mane.  He is fearless.  He is lion.

Then the singing starts, a nasal falsetto that resonates through time and space – the winds’ whine through Mara grasses.  The Maasai girls trip lightly into the firelight, their wraps like flames – yellow, red; close-cropped heads hung with beads; chins jutting forward as the crescent necklets – tiny beads so patiently strung – rise and fall on skinny chests.  The moran start to leap – higher, faster.

Their dance fires the blood as it was once meant to in the days when the young morani proved their courage by killing a lion; but we see the collecting box left discreetly in the grass.  These kids are from the nearby settlements, but before I unravel the question of exploitation – theirs or ours – the dancers pounce, dragging us into a conga, pastoralist-style.  I let the Maasai girl take my hand.  She’s about fourteen years old and she is boss. After all, this is her land – the big skies and the rippling oat grass, and our small camp in the outer reserve remains there only on her clansmen’s say-so.  The hand that grips mine is small and hard.

So I follow her, graceless in the rhythms I cannot fathom, wend with the snake of dancers on and round the camp. The dancers know we’re squeamish and should not be put at risk, so we stray no further than the firelight’s edge, never crossing the bounds of the vast out there.

And of course, being on safari, and staying at a luxury, tented camp, we have been taken to visit the vast out there. We went earlier that day and naturally, being tender wazungu, we ventured only in daylight, with the rising sun at our back, and we went, not on foot, but in the Land Rover whose solid sides we were sure would protect us from too much closeness with the wilderness.

copyright 2019 Tish Farrell

Continues HERE

 

Lens-Artists: Landscapes

 

The Changing Seasons: January (Or Is It?)

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There is more seasonal confusion to report this month. I continue to be astonished by this Dyer’s Chamomile, aka Golden Marguerite (Cota tinctoria). It’s growing in the guerrilla garden behind the back fence, and has been flowering for months. I’ve heard the plant described as ‘a hardy but weak perennial’ because it fizzles out after its second year. Well that’s as may be. This particular exemplar hasn’t reached its first birthday yet, but so far at least is looking remarkably resilient after Tuesday night’s snowfall. Nor is it alone. A tender trailing geranium that I had abandoned  in its garden pot at summer’s end has recently started to flower again. It didn’t seem to mind the snow either.

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Admittedly it wasn’t much of a fall. By Wednesday morning it was already melting, and a quick wander round the garden now reveals many signs of spring. There are breaking leaf buds on the roses, flowering currant and honeysuckle; the columbines and centaurea are making vigorous new growth; bulbs are sprouting; hellebores flowering; along the lanes the snowdrops are out in force, and the winter wheat is greening all the fields around the town. Even the birds are singing spring songs. Will it all go horribly wrong one wonders? Better enjoy it while we may then, this summer-spring-winter.

 

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The Changing Seasons ~ January 2019  Please visit Su to join in this monthly challenge.

Borderlands ~ Distance In Time And Space

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We’re in border country here – between the Shropshire Hills and Wales  and I’m standing inside a Bronze Age stone circle, Mitchell’s Fold, looking in a northerly direction. And if the circle is a little raggedy  after three millennia, then its location is surely still impressive.

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Here is the southerly view towards Corndon Hill on whose flanks are the remains of several prehistoric burial cairns. To the right are the hazy Welsh uplands.

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This westerly view towards Wales shows more of the Bronze Age circle. Several of the stones have been laid flat or damaged, and this apparently happened long ago. Perhaps when the land through the circle was being worked. You can see here the rig and furrow outlines of medieval fields. I think the climate must have been milder back then or they grew very tough crops.

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Now looking east, the furthermost ridge is one of Shropshire’s most mysterious and curiously named hillscapes: the Stiperstones with its lunar Manstone and Devil’s Chair outcrops. This ridge is formed from quartzite laid down some 480 million years ago.

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All these places loom darkly in local legends and folklore. I’ve told the story before of Mitchell, the wicked witch for whom Mitchell’s Fold is named. You can read about her grim deeds and sticky end in an earlier post: Witch Catching in the Shropshire Wilds which also comes with snow-scene photos courtesy of he who no longer uses his camera.

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: In the distance

Winter Sky Through Our Hedge

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I was in the kitchen, faffing not writing, when the light through the hedge at the top of the garden caught my eye. Hurrah – a project! I dashed outside with my camera to capture the high definition catkins against the sunset, and caught this little bird as well – probably a dunnock; it’s hard to tell. But whatever it is, I like the tiny curve of sunlight against her breast.

Lens-Artists #Curves  Please visit Tina to see her fine gallery of curves.

A Year Looking Over The Garden Fence ~ December 2017-December 2018

Last December we had over a foot of snow which lasted for a couple of weeks. This year we’ve barely had frost. Anyway, prompted by Lens-Artists, I thought I’d finish 2018 with ‘a year in the life’ of Townsend Meadow behind our house.

Happy New Year everyone, and may sanity and kindess be restored to Planet Earth and all who voyage on her.

 

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Lens-Artists

Ann-Christine asks for a photographic review of 2018, however we choose to do it.

December’s Changing Seasons ~ All Of Them Except Winter

This wintery looking hedge is on the lane to Downs Mill, though it was a mild afternoon when I took this photo, more like spring. The hazel catkins along the field path by the house have been thinking much the same, their tassels opening to the late December sun. Out in the garden the Dyer’s Chamomile (grown from seed last summer) is still flowering, as are pink and coral hesperanthus and hardy geraniums. None of them seem to have been bothered by the few mornings’ frost we had earlier in the month.

Otherwise, there have been a couple of gales, lots of murk with fog and too much rain, but also blue-sky days too, and so far little sign of winter as we once knew it. Up at the allotment the Swiss Chard is having yet another flush of juicy leaves and the pot marigolds have started to flower again, their petals adding a zing of colour to green salads. And in the fields all round the winter wheat is zooming up.

 

The Changing Seasons ~ December