I’ve sat here in this old chair for many Winters past; warmed by the flames of tended fire and sheltered from Nature’s inclement weather by a deep thatch of golden straw. It is from this humble, privileged position that I observe the creatures that visit and share my space, as they feast upon the offerings that are always available to them. Leaving the cosy interior of the cottage, each and every day at cockcrow, and entering the dawn of a new day, to feed the waiting expectant mouths forges the connection between my life and theirs. What I feel and experience in those few short-lived minutes, of the cold night that has gone before is but only a brief taste of what they, the birds and animals, have had to endure. Their – let’s get on with it – approach to life is not only endearing, but it’s also inspirational.

There are many birds that frequent my garden, I’ve recorded 126 species so far, and the daily count of the more common species can often exceed 100.
I find it spellbinding to watch them coming and going. Their constant movement a conveyor belt of colour as they hop through the leafless shrubs towards their reward. There is an obvious pecking order that is rigorously enforced, each bird defending its place on the feeder with harmless shows of aggression. That which appears to be an unorganised free for all, is, in fact, a well-disciplined routine. The food never runs out, so each and everyone gets fed. Most species grace my surroundings all year round with their presence; but some, such as Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting are seasonal, just popping in now and again during the lean months to eat and drink.
I move around the garden slowly, cautiously, preventing any sudden movement that may alarm or spook them. It’s their home as much as mine. I use my voice, mainly tuts and clicks made with my tongue, to softly announce my presence. I’m not perceived as a threat, so most carry on with their business and ignore me. With a little thought and consideration, this stealthy behaviour soon becomes second nature, and it’s not long before the rewards start to pour in; Robins, of which there are three pairs around the garden, are the first to appear. In the blink of an eye, little Rocky appears on one of his many perches: the Wheelbarrow, fork handle or a twig, and draws my attention by bobbing his body and whistling a few notes. I reach into the right pocket of my fleece and produce three suet pellets, I offer them on a flattened outstretched palm, talking softly to reassure and coax Rocky into action. The ploy works and Rocky flies from his perch onto my fingertips to collect a morsel. The only sound that I hear is that of his whirring wings (prrrr) as he attempts to hover before landing lightly on his Human perch; fanning any small crumbs to the floor to be eaten later.
So intense is the encounter.

Ladybirch Cottage: wonderful at any-time of the Year.
Last years new arrivals
The damson blossom of Spring

Spring is a meal, a feast! Each harbinger an ingredient that enhances the flavour and enjoyment of this Mother Of All Banquets. There are many familiar faces already sat at the table, with more yet to arrive. Old friends returning to us after their long Winter absence. Some, such as the Garden Warbler, will add its melodic song to the mix, while the Orange Tip butterfly drenched in Sunlight, will splash the canvas with pigments tangerine.
All of this and so much more is yours to enjoy. FREE!

Holding on.

It is now October, and winter is on the doorstep. We cannot delay or halt its progress, time waits for no man. We can only prepare for the shorter days and long cold nights. The jigsaw of summer past has been completed, and is now, piece by piece, being dismantled. The Swallows have departed, only their old nests and the memory of their presence remain. Young Robins are now moulted into adult plumage, they sing their winter song each morning at the first sign of sunlight. Summer is a time of plenty, a time of beauty. I suppose, lots of other reasons make it everyone else’s favorite too. Sun-glasses and G&T aside, there have been a few mini-disasters, like the daily attacks of the Sparrow Hawk on the feeding station, the lightning fast strikes made by the Hobby, causing alarm and despondency amongst the Swallow community, the Heron deploying its stealth tactics, and picking off the ducklings one by one as they swam past his place of ambush. Then there was the Swallow nest containing four chicks. As the youngsters grew and gained weight, the mud nest fell from the wall, all four birds were lost. Summer is not all about ooh’s and aah’s, it is as violent and aggressive as any other season of year. Already, Siskins, (soon to be joined by Scandinavian Thrushes) have arrived in the garden. Fallen leaves have turned the lawns into golden tapestries. Such beauty. Each season has its own merits, and wonderment can be found in each one. This seasonal transition as been going on for millennia, and will hopefully continue to do so. Now is the time to plan and prepare next year’s jigsaw. As I trim hedges, remove dead plants, and generally tidy the place up, I leave any remnant of summer past, such as the last Rose blooms or the Surfinias in the hanging baskets alone. Maybe I’m trying to hold onto Summer. It is said that the more you hold onto a something, the harder it is to let it go. I like to think that I’m in control of things outside in the garden, but it is nature that will make the final decision, and take Summer away. 20171211_10343520180625_144534

Happy Day.

May Day – there’s no turning back day – let’s roll!

Swallows, now numbering six, swoop and playfully chase each other around the Stables, their chattering and twittering the language of Summer. At break-neck speed, and with only inches separating their glossy blue plumage, like young playful Children, oblivious to consequence and full of the desire to show-off, they perform their amazing Ariel display. Is this natural delight pleasing to the observer, you bet it is! But you are not watching a show layed on solely for your benefit, no, you are watching two birds demonstrating their ability to warn of the danger, and possibly out-fly their Nemesis, that has shadowed them on their journey north, across the blistering hot sands of the Sahara Desert, and past the waiting talons of Eleanora Falcons. The lightning fast, sickle winged Hobby.

Of course, many more forthcoming attractions of Summer will find their way onto your canvas of contentment: the chink of bumping ice cubes as you sip your cooling drink. A passing Butterfly, that causes you to daydream as you watch it flutter from bloom to bloom. The list of possibilities is enjoyably varied, enjoy the moments you choose for your spiritual canvas, enjoy your Summer.
This this little chap, was my May Day treat. Spotted by my dearly beloved, Jack. 
Happy May Day.

The Garnet Star. A Red Giant.

April the 1st, Easter Sunday, still in darkness, but with an unseen hint of Sunrise, just enough to set the Birds singing, I stood and savoured the start of the new Day that greeted me.  Blackbirds sang and pheasants called, a waning gibbous Moon still hung low in the western sky and Owls hooted from the dark protection of the surrounding woods, only minutes of their night remained. This was the transition of night into day. The Morning air chilled my face. There was no wind, the chill just seemed to gently touch my skin, as if it had substance, letting me know it was there.
Banjo the Donkey who lives on yonder farm, brayed his lungs out “hee-haw – hee-haw,” ducks, safe in the inky darkness of their pool, quacked their humorous laughing quack, and the sound of their splashing, as they squabbled reached my ears.
I daydreamed as I stared at Jupiter, which was second only to the Moon in dominating the celestial bowl. Lost in thought, I became oblivious of the waking day and allowed myself time for my eyes wander around the paling sky, and that’s when I saw it, the Garnet Star. It is massive, but in a one-dimensional sky only its colour makes it stand out. Producing 100 times the energy of our Sun, and having a Disc that measures fifteen AU’s across ( 1 x AU = 93 MILLION MILES, that’s how far it is to the Sun and how Astrologers measure distance within the universe.) this Star, if placed in the position of our Sun, would fill space out as far as Jupiter and beyond. Now that is what I call big, and to top it off, it is expected to go Super Nova!
The night sky is full of these red gems – Antares – El Superbo, and many more. For myself, these titbits of information make the night sky three-dimensional and not that flat barrier of silver dots.
The Garnet star is up there now, but this Morning (April 2nd) it is hidden behind dense grey cloud, and rain falls, dripping from the thatch in plips and plops, an unidentifiable tune to accompany to the now singing Birds.
It’s time to put my coat on and serve them their breakfast.

At long last!

After what seems like forever and a day of waiting, Spring is finally here. The garden has become a madhouse of activity, bursting into life as animals and birds gear up to make the most of this time of plenty.
As I sit in the doorway of my greenhouse, on my comfy wooden chair, protected from any passing April showers, unnoticed, I observe. I can’t help but smile as I watch the unsuspecting stars perform their  courtship rituals.
The sound track to this show is provided by bleating lambs, as they race and jump about after their Moms, once found, their bleating is replaced with the tail wagging of contentment. A male Blackbird whistles his melodic tune, as soft and sweet as you’ll ever hear, from his leafless vantage point. Buzzards mew, Ravens croak and Wood Pigeons and Stock Doves coo from every tree. A busy Wren, pauses from its search for food, and adds an explosion of song.
My little pal, Rocky Robin, lands on a thin twig of brash, bobbing to draw my attention. From my fleece pocket I bring out a few suet pellets, and holding them on my outstretched palm I offer them to him, clicking my tongue gently with a tut tut, to encourage and reassure him. Quick as a flash, his whirring wings (what an amazing sound) are blowing away the small crumbs as he attempts to hover in front of his treat. Touch down! Now on my finger tips, he tucks in, but never drops his guard.
A pair of cock Pheasants face off on the lawn. Heads down and tails up, they circle each other clucking, eyeballing each other, and then, as if operated by a switch they erupt off the ground in a frantic head to head, or should  say beak to beak? The Sun light catches their feathers, enhancing the shimmering gold, bronze, green, pink and their blood-red cheek patches, this colorful display crowned by their comical Micky mouse ear tufts. They crack me up, so funny.
Suddenly, the mood of the garden changes, high-pitched alarm calls fill the air. There, only feet away from me, a Stoat, excitedly dashing, turning this way then that as it scampers, hunting through the leaf mold.
With the danger gone, Dunnocks continued to play chase me chase me through the leafless hedges. Ducks quack and Geese onk, absolutely everything around me has been infected by spring fever.
Over the coming weeks this concoction of sights and sounds will be complemented by new arrivals: Swallow, Willow Warbler and Nightingale to name but a few, all adding their voice to what is surely the 8th wonder of the World, the Dawn Chorus.