Fantastic things adjustments, they make everything perfect; we all make them, sometimes to suit ourselves, but also selflessly to suit others. A change can be anything from something as simple as an extra sugar lump in one’s coffee to a massive overhaul of one’s mindset and beliefs after an OMG moment that has impacted every aspect of one’s existence. A little over a year ago, I wrote about the tragic event that happened to Aberfan. When, on the 21st of October 1966 in the blink of an eye, the routine of everyday life in that small, close-knit, Welsh mining community changed, forever. The impact of that tragedy affected the lives of everyone and sent a tsunami of emotion that spread around the Globe. 
It is from the people of Aberfan and what they have endured that I draw my strength.

12 years ago I experienced my own personal disaster; what a day that was, I’ll never forget it. It was a beautiful August morning, bird songs filled the garden, and even at the early hour of five-thirty, the Summer Sun was beaming in a cloudless blue sky.
Dressed and ready for work, I leaned lightly on the washbasin and stared at my reflection in the bathroom mirror. Everything seemed normal, and I was good to go. It was going to be another routine sunny summer day. Or was it?
In the blink of an eye; my life changed, forever.
Suddenly, I felt hot. It was a heat that came from inside my core. This feeling of overheating was joined by a sensation of dizziness, that made me tighten my grip on the sink. I watched the changing expressions of my face, reflected in the mirror; it was glowing red, wet with sweat, and covered in a frozen expression of confusion and fear.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was already on my way down; the bursting blood vessel in my brain felled me instantly.
I died that day, literally. I spent the blue-light, siren-filled journey to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in that warm, cosy place that is only found between life and death.

I thought my life was over. After enduring the immediate pain and discomfort of my Bleed, I had to spend the next three months in what seemed like a state of helpless infancy, being looked after by professional, caring people. I was moved from Hospital to Hospital as I steadily progressed along that seemingly endless road to recovery. After what can only be described as the darkest days of my life I was finally allowed home. Accompanied by my Dad (since deceased), my younger Sister Meggan, and my loving wife Jackie, I arrive back at Ladybirch – our home. I was in a wheelchair, but I was alive. Never, until this moment, had the phrase Home Sweet Home felt so relevant or sounded so pleasing.
Adjustments had to be made, lots of them, and not only by me but by all of those around me too.

What’s brought all this on? I hear you ask. Well, let me tell you. Since that dark day, remembered by us all, for all the wrong reasons; a lot of water has passed under the bridge, and lots and lots of adjustments have been made.
I eventually realized that I was guilty of blindly bumbling along from one moment to the next, always at the limit of my endurance, testing, pushing, digging deep for that extra bit of strength (which made me irritable and grumpy), never stopping to smell the roses; but instead, hacking through life regardless, oblivious to the beauty of the life around me, and the adjustments made by others to make my existence better.

I owe much to a lot of people for their commitment; It is thanks to others that I’m here today; They ask for nothing in return, other than to see a smile on my face.

The land of Dragons and rainbows

Three days we spent hunkered down, man and beast alike, from the seemingly endless chain of storms that came rolling in off the Atlantic. Day and night the wind relentlessly howled its Banshee scream; bending the leafless trees back and forth, making their timber groan under the strain of remaining upright. Rain, sheets of torrential rain, fell horizontally onto the sodden ground; it lashed the window, blurring the view of the green hillside and garden outside.
The Sheep huddled along the hedgerows for protection; the humble Woodpigeon stayed in its Ivy roost.
For three whole days, our garden friends did not show; Like a boxer on the ropes, they shielded from the storms lashing blows amongst the leafless shrubs and waited for the storm to run out of steam. And sure enough, it did.

The splendid Barcod coch (Red Kite)

Ravens take to the sky, throwing out their rough, deep croaks as they fly wing tip to wing tip like ice skaters dancing, touching fingertips as they glide across the ice. Common Buzzard’s showboat effortlessly on an updraught, stretching and parting every primary, and fanning their geisha tails. When high enough the display is turned up a notch, wings are folded back and the bird hurtles like a bullet towards the ground at breathtaking speed then easing off to climb again and rejoin its mate. The displays are briefly broken off to mob the Red Kite that as appeared from its perch in the woods. Slow and methodical, the Kite uses the wind to steer its low-level flight across the open fields as it searches for food. This large bird of prey (two-metre wingspan) uses its large red forked tail to steer its course, twisting from one side to the other to counteract the wind.
The Red Kite is my dragon, the dragon I said I couldn’t find. I discovered an even bigger dragon while watching the Northern Lights from the comfort of my bed. There it was, DRACO! How could I have missed the biggest Dragon of them all? A twinkling cascade of stars falls from the zenith between the plough and the north star onto the treetops.
By day, after the Woodcock and Barn Owl have returned to their roost, the garden is invaded by hundreds of birds, all keen to eat. Jackie and I watch the goings-on over the tops of our tea mugs. A Host Of Sparrows dash from cover to cover, filling the garden with their busy chirps and chatter. Seven Bullfinches pick meticulously at the buds of the Blackthorn; a charm of twenty-five Goldfinches alights the leafless fruitless apple tree, to warm in the early Sunlight. Flashes of vivid lemon yellow are emitted from the drab, sleeping shrubs by Siskins as they bicker amongst themselves.
Catkins are swayed by the gentle breeze, unfortunately not a scirocco. Brrrrrr. It’s still nippy.

The meagrest amount of sunlight has changed the mood of everyone and everything around us. Snowdrops grace the embankments and Daffodils emerge from the soil like missiles from their silos. I like the German name for Daffodil, it’s Oester Glochen, Easter Bells. Crocus produces explosions of colour on the garden floor.
Local Farmers are getting ready for lambing, some have even washed their pickups.
Yes, Spring is here, and there’s so much more to see and enjoy.
Take care.

Poppy and Kracker

All Around The Wrekin

The Wrekin, an extinct volcano that rises 407 meter’s above the Shropshire Plain. It is a prominent landmark that when viewed from afar it looks nothing more than a pimple jutting from an otherwise featureless, flat horizon.
There is a local saying that goes ‘All around the Wrekin to get to Wellington’. Wellington is a small market town next to the ancient hill.
The saying roughly means to go the long way around doing something.

As a boy, I sat for many hours on my Bedroom windowsill, using the angle of the frame as a backrest, and drawing my knees to my chin. My attention was quickly drawn from the activities to my immediate front, the Village Allotments, with bent figures tending the soil, and the glimpse of an occasional truck on the M6 as it passed through a distant fold in the landscape, by the pimple jutting from the Western Horizon. What lay beyond that hill? Daydreaming, I would find myself alone on the summit of this hill feeling the freshness of the breeze on my young face, and the sound of the Voodoo-like chant that filled my head – come – come! I was in no mans land, the border between the known and the unknown.
Behind me, to the East, was all that I knew, the comforts of home, before me, to the West, a vast unknown, a Land of fire breathing Dragons that flew around rain-soaked mountains of black slate, where the folk spoke a language as old as the hills themselves.
I always turned back; down the slope, I’d go, back to my windowsill and home.
Until one day!

In my early teens, thanks to a friend’s mom and dad allowing me to join them on their Summer Hols, I got to go beyond the Wrekin. I remember watching its wooded slopes pass by until once more it became a pimple.
But where were the fire-breathing Dragons? I didn’t see any! The only Dragons I got to see were red ones on flags that were displayed by local patriots. But they were there – hiding – watching. Of that I was sure.
We traveled along narrow roads that twisted and turned, snake-like, through forests of lichen-covered saline oaks. Torrents of peat brown water frothed along the wooded valley floor, exploding in silver showers as it tumbled over moss coated boulders; coursing its way to the sea.
The Car was full of joyful songs and laughter. As old Ced steered us along our happy way, we greeted each twist and turn with whoops and whoas of adrenalin-filled excitement as if we were on a Rollercoaster.
We’re all going on a Summer Holiday.

The Wrekin has been my subconscious companion all throughout my life, acting at first as a lure, then a launchpad. A launchpad to the Heather covered tops of the Berwyn range, where at daybreak a damp grey mist shroudes the ridge, clinging to everything, refusing to budge; hiding the croaking Raven and the Sun.
It was on these misty, isolated hilltops that I felt most alive.
From my resting place on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Tannat Valley, I could be lulled into the past or future, simply by listening to the silence and feeling the warmth of my coffee cup that I held in my hand and smelling the aromatic vapor that rose from the hot liquid in search for my senses.
It was from here, this humblest of spots that my spirit soared and looked back at the time I spent working in the dark, dusty tunnels of the Staffordshire Coalfield; or the endless hours patrolling the violent streets of Belfast, where my walking staff became a rifle, the smell of coffee was overpowered by acrid smoke, and the dampness on my brow was spit. Venomous spit.

West of the Wrekin lies a land of Myth and Magic, and Dragons appear for those that look. Although my resting place has changed, and my beloved Meindle’s (Boots) have been exchanged for a Wheelchair, it is now, that to this land, with my wife Jackie, I return, to rejuvenate, and once to more smell the coffee.

This is the view from my new resting spot.
The coffee smells lovely.

I suppose I can now say that I’ve been All Around The Wrekin.
(And what a ride!)

The Swelling

Northward, onward, the harbinger of Spring pushes on against all adversities, driven by the strong desire to breed, and secure the continuation of its species; cementing its place as one of our favorite Summer arrivals.
Who knows how many miles it has traveled, what adversities it has faced and overcame to get here; but get here, it has.
The patchwork of bare fields passes below the Swallow’s belly, as it hugs the contours of the steadily awakening land on its long journey to its Summer Home. The crops of these fields are still hidden below ground, their identity a mystery to all except those who planted them.
That same patchwork of fields after being fed and watered looks so different now. Crops of corn, wheat, and sunflowers reach for the golden sun. They stand shoulder to shoulder, hemmed in by margins of tall grass that have been bronzed by the season, then dotted with vibrant red poppies.
Imagine the view from a Buzzard’s perspective as it circles effortlessly in the Summer Sky, looking down upon its Quilted hunting ground. Imagine the scene from the perspective of the young rabbit, that watches from the protective cover of the towering stems. It sees the Buzzard as if by magic disappear into the glare of the Sun. It’s gone! Or as it? The Rabbit moves.
At the beginning of each new day, the Dawn Chorus of unseen Birds, through open windows, has reached our ears. The morning air has been scented by a multitude of blossoms, before being laced with the aroma of morning coffee.
Ducklings, freshly hatched, have run, tumbling and tripping over twigs and themselves in an effort to keep up with their proud, cautious, protective mother as she leads them from their feather-lined nest onto the open pool. On this pool, they’ll learn the harsh reality of life in the wild.
Broods of young birds, freshly fledged, have followed their parents from tree to tree, bush to bush, and back again; constantly calling demanding food from the ragged-looking guardians.
Most of these hungry youngsters are an absolute delight to watch. Their little fluffy bodies, clumsy flight, inquisitiveness, bright yellow gapes, and the sound of constant begging always raise a smile. But a slightly less delight, is a flock of up to 30 ravenous Jackdaws landing on the front lawn; they do not know the meaning of peace and quiet.
They sit in the surrounding treetops, watching my every move, waiting for me to finish my feeding rounds. As soon as I disappear from sight, down they come.
Squawk, squawk, squabble, and squawk. They’re like a coach load of rowdy football fans arriving in the car park of a usually quiet rural pub.
With the bedroom window wide open because of the nighttime heat and mugginess, there’s no way that Jack can sleep through the Corvids Breakfast Banquet.
It’s half past four now and the night as retreated, revealing a grey mist that blankets the fields. Only the tallest trees protrude from its surface. There is no wind, nothing stirs, the only sound is that of the humble Wood Pigeon. It is wonderful.
To the East, the Sun peeks its head over the treetops, sending a ray of light, that transforms the mist from a milky grey to a magical, illuminating gold. The same ray of light kisses the roof of the garden shed before crossing the garden to further its magic in the next field.
Bees, leaving the hive, unwittingly fly through the golden shaft of sunlight, briefly, very briefly, transforming their little dark bodies into flashing golden bullets, before they disappear out of sight into the countryside beyond.
The Sun climbs steadily towards its zenith, replacing the cool freshness left by the night with the blistering heat of a furnace.

It is during this brief spell between spring and Autumn that wonderful magic occurs, Blossoms become berries, flowers become fruit. The tomato plants in my greenhouse that I have nurtured since March have grown, producing vines of irresistible juicy red globes. Runner beans have curled around their canes and climbed to the top, producing a pyramid of red flowers that have now become little beans. Apples swell, getting bigger by the day, they’re a treat for everyone.
During this short spell of time, the young must grow up fast, very fast.
I like to refer to this time of plenty as The Swelling. It all looks fine and dandy when observing The Swelling from the shade of a tree, sipping an ice-cold drink, but, there is another side to the coin.

It is now almost 4am and time for me to start my daily chores, but before I go I’d like to say hello and thank you for reading.
Take care.

Opening up

It is time to open up, we’ve endured all that Winter as sent our way. It’s time to allow the spirit of the seasons back into our lives; but gently, as slowly and gently as an opening bud, or a butterfly pumping life into its shrivelled wings. Think of the baby Rabbit exiting its burrow for the first time; stopping, cautiously sniffing the air for signs of danger. We’ve all bolted back into the burrow for safety, now it’s time to reemerge, wiser, bolder. One step at a time. – that’s the way.

If we are fortunate enough to open our eyes, not only are we awake, we are also alive. Alive and capable of enjoying the abundance of beautiful free gifts provided by none other than Mother Nature herself.
For me, the most wonderful of these free gifts is the dawn chorus. Throughout Spring, this short, sweet, delightful experience provides the perfect supercharge needed to strengthen my connection with the natural world.
Each morning an advancing tide of light laps against the shore of night. At first, it is a soft, gentle, light, that soothes away the blackness of night.
This fine line, where the incoming tide of light, of the new day, touches the blackness of the night, is hard to detect and is missed by many of us. But fear not, help is at hand, no, not in the form of a cockerel sitting on a farmyard fence, but by a choir of feathered songsters, whose melodic song helps clear the listener’s mind.
Presently, here at Ladybirch Cottage, it is the Pheasants who respond to the call of duty first. Pheasants are not renowned for their musical ability, but their sharp clucks act like a conductor tapping his baton, bringing everyone to attention. Maybe roosting up in the Oaks gives them a slight height advantage over the birds’ in lower cover. Robins are next to fire up, followed by the Song Thrush, then the Blackbirds. Within minutes bird song pours from every tree and bush reaching a cacophony of sound that makes it difficult to identify individual performers.
As the season progresses, the list of performers grows, including the migrants returning to share our Summer.

In the Swedish language, there is one particular word that I’ve taken a shine to.
That word is smultronstalle, it means favourite place. Smaltronstallen can be anywhere one likes; they are places where one feels content, safe, and happy.
I’ve got several smaltronstallen dotted around the place; I’ve even got one in my head.
When the chance arises, find your smaltronstalle, and spend a little time there, and grab a freebie or two.

My new roof

420 years I’ve stood here; I’ve seen people come, and I’ve seen people go. My claim to fame is that in 1651 after the Battle of Worcester I witnessed King Charles The Second being escorted past my front door on his way to Boscobel House, which is only a few fields away.
I’m very proud of my roof, it’s called a thatch. There are only 38 of us in this shire (Staffordshire), so I guess that makes me a bit special.
Anyway, that’s enough rabbiting, let me tell you about my crowning glory.

The passage of time has unfortunately seen the demise of my sort, probably due to the cost and impracticality of maintaining our good looks.
Excuse me if I blow my own trumpet, but, as you know, if I don’t, no one else will.
Luckily for me, I’ve been designated as a grade two scheduled building, Which means people must maintain my original splendorous looks. To reassure me further, a small number of individuals have trained in the artisan craft of thatching, and become Thatchers, thus guaranteeing me a place within the British countryside for the unforeseeable future:)

The last person to do my thatch was a chap called Dave, a Master Thatcher. Dave was helped by his Father-In-Law, Barry, and watched over, for educational purposes, by Mick, the bloke who lives in me now.
It was quite enlightening listening to the questions and answers that were being bandied about. I took it all in.

I didn’t know that here in England there are two types of material available to thatch a roof.
There’s Norfolk Reed, this is reckoned to be the best, making it the most expensive, then there’s straw, it’s cheaper, and more readily available. Yes, you’ve guessed correctly, I got straw. Not that I mind, it’s all I’ve known over the years, and I’ve never heard anyone complain about it.

A Thatcher is often thought to only work during the Summer,visualized as working aloft on a cottage roof, wiping the back of his hand across his brow as he briefly breaks from his labors to look at the glowing Summer Sun – that’s not true! Dave and Barry turned up to do my roof at the start of the New Year 2016. January, it was bitter cold. That’s the only working on a Summers day myth out of the window.
I remember Mick getting a bit panicky about the whole affair. The Plonka actually thought that a 40ft Truck laden with straw was going to turn up and that Dave would remove the roof, the whole roof, and nothing but the roof, all in one go. All of his ill-feelings were unfounded, Dave rolled up in his white van, ladders strapped to the roof rack, and only the straw he needed for the day’s work in the back. Phew!
After standing on the lawn with a nice warm mug of tea each, and exchanging small talk; hands were briskly rubbed together, and work began.
Dave and Barry hauled a large green tarp onto my roof and spread it out covering all of my south-facing side, they then pegged it down, securely. The tarp was folded back to reveal a third of my roof. This was going to be the section they worked on that day.
Unseen at a distance, the roof is covered in wire mesh. This was cut and removed.
The straw of my roof is in three layers, each layer being about 25cm thick. Only one layer at a time is replaced.
What I found interesting at this stage was the fact that the bottom layer dated back to the 1960s. Dave removed an ear of corn from this layer to prove this point; he held it next to a new fresh one for comparison. The difference between the two ears was amazingly clear. Twice the amount of golden grain clung geometrically in two rows to the fresh ear, demonstrating perfectly the advancement genetics had made over the years in agriculture. Not all the ears of wheat are separated, so my roof is a big larder for critters of all kinds to plunder.

The decoration along my ridge is called the Pie-Crust; this is made up of lengths of split hazel called Ligers and Gadds. The Liggers are the long pieces, the tram lines, and the Gadds are the short pieces, that form the cross effect. The style of the bedroom window is an eyebrowed window.

As if Dave hadn’t made me look wonderful enough, he turned up a day or two later to put the cherry on the cake, so to say. He’d only made me a pheasant out of straw, to take pride of place on my ridge.

Well, that’s me sorted for the next 20 years; I’d better get back to doing what I’m best at, that’s looking good and keeping everyone warm and dry.
Bye for now.

The Square Window

The Square Window, from my side. The warm side.

A thin, brittle pane of glass. That’s all there is separating my World from theirs. I love being in their world; but the truth of the matter is, that at this time of year, I wouldn’t last a night. So, I stay on my side of the glass and watch.

Curtain call is always roughly one hour before dawn. Davenport, one of the ten Robins that grace my garden, sings his flutey song from his roost within the woodshed.
My flection in the square window looks back at me. For a brief moment, it has my undivided attention, prompting my awareness, highlighting the reality of the here and now; my grey hair, the paunch of good living, and the fact that I’m sat in a wheelchair. It is at this point that I snap out of my daydream, and look beyond the image that sits before me.
Tawny Owls, three of them; out there somewhere in the surrounding leafless oaks, sound their atmospheric quivering hoots, or occasionally a keeewik; broadcasting their whereabouts to each other. At other times, the panicky cluck of a Pheasant explodes in the stillness of pre-dawn, as it leaves its lofty roost. Probably spooked by one of the Owls.
The distant bark of a Fox cuts through the frosty night air, reminding me of the threat to any old, weak or injured creatures as it lurks stealthily amongst the shadows of the freezing night, searching for prey.

Throughout the month, the Wolf Moon as grown. At the moment its luminosity is magnified by the recent fall of snow that now blankets the ground. Night as almost become day. But only in the sense of light; the threats of the long, cold, January nights remain.
Regardless of the time of year, the dark hours form a barrier as formidable as The Berlin Wall between myself and the birds and animals with whom I share my time. I worry about them. Is there any need to? Maybe I’m being too over-sensitive, or it’s the feeling of helplessness created by the fact that they are beyond my protection.
I suppose there is only so much that I can do to prepare them for the long dark nights of Winter.
In the fading light, as the day returns to the Wolf, I question myself, asking not so much if I’ve done enough, but if I’ve done my best, my utmost. When lives are on the line, second best isn’t good enough.

I’m looking beyond that reflection of a portly, ageing, grey-haired man now, watching as the day’s dimmer-switch, turns tantalizingly slow, to reveal the detail of my outdoor surroundings.
Davenport as started singing his cheerful song, I can hear Harry (he’s one of our geese) honking, Jack’s just come in after finishing seeing to her horses, Kracka and Poppy.
The new day will bring its challenges for me, and for those outside who are bearing the brunt of this testing season.

The curtain is raised, the show as begun. One by one the players appear on the stage that is the square window, and I’ve got a front-row seat.

Easier times are ahead. At the moment they seem a million miles away, but they are so unbelievably close. Already, Birds are becoming territorial and even attempting to sing. It won’t be long before shafts of golden sunlight and the sound of bird song pour into our lives.
Keep well.

Before you go, I would like to say a special thank you to Andrea, who writes the Blog Harvesting Hectate for the helping shove.

Thank you, Andrea.

Settling in

The Merry Month of May is at an end, and what a fabulous Month it has been here at Ladybirch Cottage. The transition from Spring to Summer is almost complete, only the Spotted Flycatcher is yet to return from its wintering grounds. It is so easy to understand why children dance with joy around the Maypole. It is this image of the vibrancy of color: red, blue, yellow and white, together with the sound of joyful laughter that one associates with this Folk Ritual that dominates my imagination at this time of the Year.
For us Humans, it is a time to think of holidays and long lazy days sipping Pims, watching tennis, or, cremating food to within an inch of its life on the Barby; some may think of skin cancer and hosepipe bans. How times change, aye.
For all living things around us, Summer is a window of opportunity, a time of plenty. A time to make Hay while the Sun is shining. We Humans can afford the luxury of being casual observers, so, don’t miss out, get out there and use your senses; even the most mundane of species has the ability to astound you. 

On Friday 24th May, I received a what’s Ap message from a friend, alerting me to the fact that a Marsh-Harrier (Bird Of Prey) had just flown over his location two miles South West of Ladybirch, and it was heading in my general direction.
My Garden List of birds stands at 128 species, Marsh Harrier would make it 129, so you can imagine how keen I was to see it. With my bins hanging around my neck, and, my senses tingling with excited anticipation, I watched and waited. Life around me carried on as normal, everything was where it should be, doing what it should be, unaware of the approaching Raptor. I scanned every part of the southern panorama not wanting to miss a trick; my every sense was on full alert. I had a disappointing false alarm – a Larus species (Gull) drifted East-West approx one and a half mile away. Dismayed, I exhaled heavily and let my Bins (Binoculars) rest on my chest, but then, in the blink of an eye, only 2oo yards to my left, and gliding just above the height of the Oaks; causing me to panic and fumble for my Bins – was a male 2nd Summer Marsh Harrier. For the short time, it took for it to drift through my location, my World stood still.

Male Marsh Harrier

I shall remember May 2019 for many reasons, but the most significant reason is that I became a Bee Keeper. For the past ten years I have wished for this; each year I have provided for and encouraged wild bees into my garden – one year there were five different bee species, with hives in anything from nest boxes to plant pots. Wasps and Brown Hornets are regular visitors, making their homes in the thatch. I’ve had mock hives, purely for decorative purposes, but never the real thing. Wild Bees have tolerated my presence, allowing me to observe their coming and going, but never letting me see the engine room, the central hub of their existence. As soon as they crawl through the small entrance hole, I am left to wonder at what goes on inside. Until now!
It’s quite nerve-racking approaching one’s new Hive for the first time, knowing there are a potential 40.000 stings in it. I suppose our conception of Bees is a swarm chasing a frantic, arm waving individual, before landing, smothering, then stinging them to death. The reality is different, it’s very calming and relaxing. I look forward to my weekly checks of the Hive; this is to ensure the health and well-being of its occupants, not only for my personal pleasure.

So it’s into Flaming June we go: shorts, flip-flops, and a long cold drink are the order of the day. Cheers everyone.

Mothin with the Bugs

As the Sun slowly sank below the tree-fringed horizon, pulling with it a duvet of darkness, that dulled the floral carpet of June; creatures of the night stirred. Ever-lengthening dark fingers of shadow, stretched, reaching across the meadow, seeking out their kind, to become total shadowiness. Sheep, heads down, unaware of its presence, carried on with grazing the Summer lush grass; their lambs, now almost full grown, returned, bleating, wagging their tails, to suckle. A clatter of Jackdaws flew to roost, their noisy departure overriding the bellowing of the Bull, as it pushed clouds of breath into the chilly air.
Amongst the fading Cirrus, a passenger plane glared gold, its path marked by a thinning trail of grey, slowly dispersing vapor. Its beady red eye blinked a silent, rhythmic flash, that intensified in brightness as the Day succumbed to the imminent arrival of Night.

Now under cover of darkness, The Lobster felt it safe to move from its daytime hiding place. After stretching its wings, it ventured out into the Night. Staffordshire slept, totally unaware that outside, The Lobster lurked.

The Lobster

After three years of setting traps, my vigilance was rewarded, I caught The Lobster. For only the second time since records began, had this large, docile Moth been trapped in VC39 (that’s the Vice Count number allocated to Staffordshire). At the moment, this location is the Northern Edge of its range.
So you can imagine, how, after walking the Earth’s crust for 60 years, thrilled, I was to see it.

The simplest of things, and absolutely free, made my day.
What’s going to make yours? There are lots of things out there to choose from.

As the Year progresses, and the nights get warmer, so, the number of Moth species on the wing increases. Leave a light on for a while, or put a sugar rope (string soaked in a sugar solution) in the bushes, they will come, just have your phone camera at the ready. You’ll be amazed by what this Night-time World has to offer.

Nice Surprise

Once a Month I like to set up my Moth Trap, and get a good close up look at what’s flying around out there in the dark. The bright 125watt methane vapour lamp glows like a false Moon, creating a dome of white light, that weakens and gives in to the darkness at its extremities. In the blackness of rural night, to any passing or resident Moth, this light must seem like a Super Moon, and must be checked out.
The Light reveals more than Moths. Brock’s stripey face is easily seen, as his grey bulk shuffles along the track, stopping occasionally to sniff, then have a quick dig.
The Barn Owl glides into the dome of light, its pale coloration makes its appearance seem instantaneous, like a magical illusion. Its blood curdling screech sends a shiver down my spine. The eyes of the Horses (Kracker and Poppy) catch the light as they graze, making me think instantly of evil creatures, lurking out there in the unknown. Silly, I know, but that’s what the dark and the night do to me. The large oak doors of my imagination are pushed open, and every conceivable ghoulish thought in my head is released and allowed to scrape their fingernails across the blackboard of my imagination.

But, the Sun rises, bringing with it a return to the familiar. Those evil creatures of the night have left the paddocks, and thank the Lord, Kracker and Poppy are both ok.
Sat comfortably on my green plastic chair, I lean forward and start to examine the egg cartons of my Moth Trap. I feel like a kid at Christmas, the expectancy and anticipation, I don’t know what’s flown in there, and I have no idea what each turn of a carton will reveal.

The real surprise on this occasion came in the form of a Dotted Chestnut. A very rare Moth in Staffordshire, in fact, it has only been recorded once before, and that was in 1997, so you can imagine how chuffed I am.

Dotted Chestnut – the second record for Staffordshire.

The Blackbirds are singing now, it’s time to venture outside and feed the waiting hoards, then sit down in front of my Skinner Trap to check for more nice surprises.

P.S No Moths were harmed in the making of this epic post.