Monday, 24 February 2014

Bird Song Adventures

Good day all, what a beautiful sunny day it is, as well!

This morning when doing some sewing, I put on my birdsong CD to try and get my brain in tune for spring, and oh! what revelation. It was as though I had been transplanted into another time, another place, and this exotic location changed with every bird. 

One of the first birds that features on the CD is a tree pipit Anthus trivialus, and I think I have written about these little birds before, because they were and remain one of my enduring favourites. I first heard and saw them when I was carrying out my thesis research on Dundreggan in May 2012. They have the most incredible song, and on a sunny day when numerous birds would be flying and singing, I would be almost dizzy with the noise of them. Ever since then, every time I hear a tree pipit, whether on a rainy, cold winters day via recording or on a spring day in person I am instantly transported back to that time.

It turns out that the tree pipit is no longer the only bird that has transportive powers for me.

There’s currently a male robin Erithacus rubecula that has adopted a wood pile for his territory, and is singing his heart out every time I walk past him. With the example robin playing on the CD I could hear the wood pile robin, clear as a bell, and I could see him also - singing proud perched on a particularly fetching twig. The feeling of being outdoors and being happy returned to me. It was as though I there. 

On my most recent tree week with Trees for Life, I went off round the corner to satisfy a call of nature and spent an additional five minutes just relishing the clear notes of a redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus – the first time I ever heard or saw one. The bird itself was utterly stunning, the song clear and crisp and beautiful, the location was as good as it could have been, it was sunny; it was absolutely idyllic. I also saw redstarts in Spain, but I can’t remember them singing. I’m sure I would have, if they had, as I can remember other birds that were there singing their hearts out. 

Other birds which remain special, because of the location or the memories of my first sighting, or because they are just wonderful and they help keep me going, include stonechat Saxicola torquata, dippers Cinclus cinclus (I could write forever more just about dippers, wonderful birds), and buzzards Buteo buteo among others.

Buzzards because their call is just wonderful; that whistle of freedom, flight and adventure. I know they are not our most magnificent of birds of prey, but they are and remain some of my favourite.

Dippers because they are associated with some of my favourite habitats, they are perfectly adapted to water life and they have the most magnificent motion which I really love.

Stonechat remind me of some wonderful times in the wilds of Scotland. The noise they make and the way they sit so perkily on the bracken cheers my soul when I think of them. 

Starlings whistling at you from the top of the buildings, sparrows chattering in the hedge, wrens giving it yaldy, indignant and tough, skylarks on a spring day lifting their song to the heavens.  

I am only touching on the birds that mean something to me here as I am concentrating on sounds rather than image but isn’t it interesting how the sounds can transport us so readily. We can disappear at any time, just choose your location and let the birds take you there. 

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Dreams of a Future

I applied for an absolute dream of a job yesterday. I won't tell you what it is, but it involves public engagement and trees. I just have to cross my fingers now that I, at the very least, get an interview.

The snow was falling yesterday and I was walking in a blizzard. It was wonderful, with the wind howling and the snowflakes flying all around, coming from all directions.

I did the same as I do every time I pass it, and I thought of the badgers in the sett all snuggled up and warm and I thought about their stories.

There was a buzzard enjoying the extremes as well. I accidentally flushed a blackbird out from the hawthorn hedge. The rooks were enjoying their socialisations.

Today it's gone and it's turned to sludge and muck. Will the snow come at the wrong time, as it so often does? Will it come when there's all the newborn lambs in the fields that are shivering with the cold?

I'm planning a trip, I'll give more details at some point in the future. I'm following Tom's Bike Trip and Alastair Humpreys for inspiration and more. Hints and tips.

Sometimes I get too anxious. I'll share that with you guys: I battle with anxiety, but 9 times out of 10 I'm winning. It's just sometimes now that it gets on top of me again. Planning an adventure probably helps.

Anyhoo, I'm away out because the sun has started shining and I'm going to build a structure. Suspense, suspense, oo la la!

Monday, 10 February 2014

So write

Write about your dreams and your fears and your passions. We don't need to know about the weather, the midges or the state of the bothy. We want stories of freedom and love, and wonder and hope. Keep the dreams alive by telling us your one - as daft and crazy as it may seem. We are creatures dreaming of a better world; let's embrace it with hope and optimism.

When you can hear the wind outside and you're eating tablet - food of the gods - what would you change?

My hopes: big, conservation, teaching, writing, change.
My fears: becoming one of those dead-eyed people you see sitting on the bus.

We are the wild and the wild places too. We're true to ourselves and the soul is nurtured by the wild. The inner wolf with the green eyes. Humankind is not separate from this world, from the natural world, and that's why when you enter into it you feel nothing but rejuvenation, because it is what is necessary for your soul to function. Walk and with every step feel your core becoming stronger and healthier.

Sing, people, sing.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Close Encounter with a Wild Thing

Walking, walking - wandering really, 
Explosion-noise, escape escape, almost can taste panicpanicescape
Must (no other explanation)
Must (couldn't be anything else)
vegetation shaking.. try and follow. 
This way!
No, this! 
Then nothing - the noise receeds, 
The shaking also
Our contact with the boar
Sus scrofa
comes to an end
Other signs of a presence non-human
And we feel honoured
Above anything else

The Wonders of WWOOFing

I would like, if I may, to talk to you all about WWOOFing, and about my recent Spanish experiences. In this post I shall concentrate solely on the WWOOFing side of things, and then in a later one I will bring up my extra-curricular activities as they were astonishingly good!

To WWOOF - World wide opportunities on organic farms. It's an activity which involves working out of doors (normally) in the garden or on the farm of the hosts, used as a way to get the work done on small places that couldn't afford to pay people to do the work, it is a wonderful way to learn and to experience new things. It's the first time I have done anything like this, really, and I would do it again in a shot.

Bedding in the strawberries, planting peas, making pea supports from olive tree off cuts, making a fence from wild fennel, eating wild asparagus, pruning olive trees, cutting down cana (a reed 3x my height), fertilising a nectarine tree with paintbrushes, washing sooty mould off a lemon tree (I loved this activity!), sorting out compost, taking excess fruits off the nispero tree, taking diseased leaves off orange trees, building paths, pruning pomegranate trees, planting leeks, planting carrots, planting cabbages and cauliflowers...

And non-gardening, finca, highlights:
Being with the most inspiring person I have ever met, day in, day out., being outdoors most of the time, drinking whisky on a private terrace until dark, the music, the moon, the stars, the birds, the cats, the slow worm (yes, the slow worm, pink, long (20cm?), utterly enchanting - he/she now lives in one of the strawberry beds), drinking beer, watching the sun set, Miguel the cockerel and his 6 hens, the hen house which was a work of art, the rain! Magnificent, the feeling of being free, having no responsibilities and no worries.