From the vaults: A morning by the Severn (10/02/2010)

A morning by the Severn

Having just about worn a groove across the hills and footpaths on our immediate doorstep, we opted for a morning visit to the Severn valley. It was bitingly cold at the water’s edge and progress into the teeth of a particularly spiteful wind was more than difficult at times; it transpired later that we’d both entertained the idea of turning back but had each kept it to ourselves.

Eventually, warmed partly by effort and partly by the most watery of suns, things became a little more comfortable and the river, although it’s never likely to be mistaken for the Tay, was less mucky than it can sometimes be and even rewarded us with the occasional sparkle.

It was a banner day for raptors, particularly buzzards patrolling the skies in groups of seven or eight, and with sufficient élan to suggest that there were updraughts to be found. Unlike the crows, rising like interceptors to greet incoming bombers, kestrels seemed happy enough not to compete for airspace and operated at lower levels, swooping from telegraph lines and bare branches or simply dropping like stones from their hover.

Undergrowth at the waters edge was choked with assorted dreck left behind by passage of flood; mostly rotting vegetation, or so we thought until one clump of debris solidified into the silhouette of a motionless, and apparently well-fed, kingfisher. Silhouette was all we got though, against the bright background of the river, before the bird, concentration disturbed, quickly moved on.

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From the vaults: Can spring be far behind? (05/02/2010)

Can spring be far behind?

Well, there’s probably a while to go yet but the snow and ice has receded, for a while at least, the ground has softened and the wind lost its bite. The garden birds are going through one of those periods of unpredictable behaviour which they seem to display from time to time – competing aggressively for food they would usually ignore, in places they would normally avoid. So we have ground feeders swinging awkwardly from peanut holders or tipping sunflower seed out onto the floor (which could possibly be a planned manoeuvre) while other varieties, probably displaced by the hectic activity in the trees, forage around at ground level.

There’s been confrontation too, some of it unevenly matched: a robin facing down a blackbird over some kitchen scraps, and a pair of particularly bolshy blue tits rounding on a startled chaffinch who, at the time, appeared to be doing nothing more than patiently waiting her turn. Speaking of blue tits, the new nest box is being inspected with some regularity but the mood seems to be tentative rather than enthusiastic.

Oh, and there are snowdrops popping up in most of the usual places plus some new ones; but still, sadly, not in our garden where, despite all our encouragements down the years, they simply refuse to flourish.