Tag Archives: crows

The Natural History of 6am

At this time of year 6am on a Sunday morning is a twilight world filled with strange sights and tinged with sadness. By the time it starts to be twilight you know that summer has passed and another long winter is about to start. Though time is passing more quickly as I get older, winter seems to last longer.

I can’t talk for other days, as I don’t regularly get up for that time on any other day. I would like to, as it seems an industrious thing to do, but I’m just too lazy. My father’s parents used to get up at 4.30 every morning, even when they were in their 80’s, but I haven’t inherited the urge to get up in the dark.

Julia has now been working at the Leisure Centre for around seven years, so I’ve had many chances to observe the Natural History of  that time.

We set off at around 5.40 to get to work for 6am. Other people who go to work at that time are mainly walking, with a few bicycles and cars around. A few people stand at bus stops, but they are early, as the buses don’t start until six. I always think of this when the government says that we should get out of our cars and use public transport. I would use public transport if it ran at the right times. And if I liked sharing a tin box with drunks and people who hold loud telephone conversations.

As people walk to work, wearing stout footwear and sensible clothing they meet a torrent of people wearing fashionable footwear and next to nothing else. I swear that the mascara worn by some of the women weighs more than their clothes. These are the people returning home from a night out.

Talk all you want about poverty and starvation, but there’s something about going to work as the revellers return home that really emphasises the unfairness of life.

For a closer view of the clubbers, you can often find them clustered in McDonalds at this time of the morning loudly discussing the banal details of their night out. At this point it is time to reflect that the more interesting members of the species have, in all probability, paired off and are involved in various mating rituals.

The birds are the other interesting Natural History element of the early morning. Blackbirds tend to be about at all times of the day or night and tend to behave as Blackbirds do at all time of the day. There’s something about a Blackbird’s body clock that seems to go 24 hours a day, whether in sunlight or the illumination of streetlights.

Pigeons stalk the city streets and the suburbs at this time of day, finding plenty of spilled food to eat. Often the spillage will be large enough to attract a sizeable flock. They don’t really pay a lot of attention to cars and natural selection plays its part here – ensuring that the less alert of the pigeons provides a snack for the crows, who always seem to be lurking. There were no Wood Pigeons or Magpies about this morning, but they are often seen too.

That, I feel, is enough. I’m off to the laundry now.

This, in case any children are reading, is what happens when you don’t work hard enough at school. People who worked hard at school tend to have the weekends off.

The Birds

The header photo shows the origin of the mysterious tears that keep appearing in the polytunnels. The plastic is several years past the point that it should have been replaced and a crow striding across the top of the tunnel is a step too far. One day soon I’m expecting to see one fall through completely.

Julia has already used two rolls of mending tape and several large pieces of scrap polythene getting the tunnels ready for winter and despite this the wind ripped a large section last month. It’s patched now but she’s currently raising the money to replace at least one of the covers next year.

Based on the cost last time we bought covers on the farm we are hoping to spend no more than £600 doing the job. This should enable us to get a good six years of fund-raising in before we need to replace them again. Manufacturers tend to recommend three years, as the sheet gradually lets less and less light through, but economy is more important than the ultimate growing performance.

It doesn’t seem a lot of money, but when you are raising it by selling bird boxes at £5 each it takes some doing.

The Black-headed Gulls were out in force too, and the squabbling between gulls and crows is ine of the more raucous sounds around.

While I was taking photographs of the flowers and plastic poppies the squeaks of Long-tailed Tits filled the garden as they descended to pick insects from the willows.

And coy bumbarrels, twenty in a drove,
Flit down the hedgerows in the frozen plain
And hang on little twigs and start again. 

John Clare – Emmonsail’s Heath in Winter

Clare hit it on the head there, as there were about twenty of them, and they were hanging on little twigs. They were also a bit coy when it came to posing for the camera and, as usual, I got more photos of empty branches than I did of birds.

There’s something a little eerie about a poet managing to do that from a distance of 200 years.

The Great Tits on the feeders were slightly easier to get, but the Cormorants, which flew by several times, proved impossible to photograph. Finally, alerted by the distinctive flight, I was able to get a distant shot of a Greater Spotted Woodpecker. It’s a common bird, but always nice to see, even at a distance.

Sorry about the quality of the photography, but it was a grey and windy day and I’ve become a little rusty over the summer.

Canad+a Geese in flight - River Trent at Wilford

Canada Geese in flight – River Trent at Wilford

The final shot shows three Canada Geese in flight. I took it a couple of weeks ago and didn’t have a chance to use it. I thought I’d include it here to show I can photograph birds in flight, though the day was a little brighter, and they did fly right over the top of me.

Meetings, sticks, stars and crows

We had two meetings yesterday and they generated enough work to fill most of today. They didn’t fill it with anything useful but emails from people at the meetings have comprehensively instructed me how to suck eggs as well as sucking the fun out of the day. If I say the most productive part iof the day was making stars out of willow sticks and garden twine you will see what I mean. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA   One tip for making stuff with willow – make sure it’s dry for this sort of work. We normally have it wet to enable us to bend it  and it didn’t occur to me when I originally made these last week that they would shrink and the bindings would loosen to the extent that some of the stars actually fell apart. Not that it was all bad, we went shopping for supplies for the group this morning and had a good view of carrion crows hopping on the tops of cars. Not sure why, and couldn’t get close enough for a really good shot because I always get embarrassed when people start looking at me with the camera.

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