From the vaults: New property, new tenants … (24/01/2010)

New property, new tenants …

The old nest box finally surrendered to the ravages of time last spring; but not before it had served as incubator and first home for one final clutch of young blue tits. It was a close run thing though: by the time the last of the young blueys had fledged we could see movement inside the box through an ever-widening crack in the front panel. All of which means that this year’s prospective homemakers get to view a brand new property, and the first few enquiries arrived this week.

I stood, like some avian estate agent, furtively watching the comings and goings from the bedroom window, hoping they’d like the feel of the place and it would suit their needs. Oddly there were three birds flitting between the new box and the neighbouring trees; so either there is still some jockeying for position to be done, or one of the visitors is just helping the other two to move in.

Picture: The very last days of the old nest box. It had served us, and generations of tenants, wonderfully well.


From the vaults: Colour and contrast (13/01/2010)

Colour and contrast

There was no mistaking the direction of the overnight, snow bearing, wind. Every single one of the tall pines along the southern edge of the wood carried a perfectly applied strip of white crystals.

On a day when the world seemed to have been rendered in monochrome there were sudden and diverting splashes of colour: the old GPO phone box; a passenger service, heading for Worcester, still carrying the apple green/canary yellow livery of the departed and unlamented Central Trains.

Wildlife activity was plentiful; optimising the daylight hours which would be brief, and feeding opportunities which would be meagre. A solitary buzzard flapped almost resentfully; struggling to get airborne, lacking the assistance of breeze or updraught. Carrion would be in short supply, competition fierce. The icicles in the railway cutting suggested that lives lived in the sheltered hollows and recesses would be no less punishing.

From the vaults: Let’s be careful out there … (06/01/2010)

Let’s be careful out there …

Snow, like many things, is best sampled fresh. A familiar landscape sporting a new winter coat is familiar no longer: old lines are blurred, new ones picked out in the clearest of relief; depths of field are shifted, perspectives altered. We plant our feet where we might at other times step around and tread tentatively where we would, on a different day, move with confidence.

School and workplace closures had brought out the crowds – sledgers mostly – but they were concentrated on a few polished slopes and it was easy enough to give them the slip, finding the places where, our own footprints aside, only animal tracks had disturbed the surface of the snow.
By mid-afternoon the wind had strengthened and swung around to a north-easterly, whipping up eddies of spindrift and giving the pristine fields a scoured look; as if a few dozen hectares of tundra had somehow been scooped up, carried south, and deposited in the unlikely setting of north Worcestershire.

From the vaults: (More than) a touch of frost (03/01/2010)

(More than) a touch of frost

Not quite ready to confront things which needed to be confronted – dismantling decorations, the impending return to what passes for gainful employment – we decided to keep our heads buried in sand for just a little longer by taking to the lanes, fields and woods within easy reach of home. And, having got out, stayed out for more time than we really had available; willing conspirators needing no coercion.

These frosts have been like the frosts of mis-spent adolescence; the ones which turned Sunday league pitches to corrugated concrete, and the concept of playing football in gloves was considered dubious even for goalkeepers.

Blue skies. Watery sun, surprisingly warming. Boot-prints temporarily fossilised; some so clearly defined that even the lozenge shaped indentation bearing the word ‘Vibram’ was easily distinguishable.

In the end it was hunger, rather than any new-found sense of responsibility, which prompted us to turn for home.