Alexander Averin

Saturday 18 August 2007

Hawks, squirrels, harebells and moths....

Dear Diary,

A rare treat today: we saw something we have never seen so close up before, let alone in the back garden. It was a young sparrow hawk perched on the fence. Just sitting there looking around occasionally. I did a bit of a quick look-up in our wonderful Readers Digest book and found out that they often perch on a post and make quick surprise ‘pounces’ on unsuspecting little birds. Finches, sparrows and the like. The funny thing is that all morning the bird table outside the kitchen window has been alive with birds, the usual tits, sparrows, robins, woodpeckers etc but also finches who aren’t regular visitors there. They have all seemed frantic too in their mode of feeding which is usually a sign of bad weather to come. I haven’t heard any weather forecasts so don’t know if they could be right or not. They all disappeared though while the hawk was nearby, clever aren’t they?

Sammy Squirrel also came to the table early this morning and M took some photos of him through the glass of the window so they haven’t come out very well. We spent ages photographing the young hawk as well but again they did not come out too well with the window in between and also the bird was some distance away. And it was bucketing down with rain.

(Pity that it’s still raining because I was hoping to tackle some overgrown flower beds).

So it will be a ‘stay-indoors’ day today I think; I can catch up with some blog-reading, I am so behind on that. Also I am enjoying Piers Morgan’s book (see above). (I got it from the library), it’s in diary form , well written and makes for light holiday reading. Full of political/celebrity/journalistic gossipy stuff. I don’t feel like anything too demanding. Piers M is one of those ' love him or hate him' kind of guys I guess but he doesn’t pretend to be something he’s not and he hates ‘celebrity’.

And for something completely different I’m also reading Little Women yet again. One of my childhood all-time favourites.

If you want a really funny light read I can highly recommend the Irish novel Diary of a Demented Housewife by Niamh Greene

Later on I also want to get my family history stuff in some kind of order and try and work out the direction of my next searches. I am ‘chasing dead people’ as a fellow blogger calls it. I love that..

Yesterday we visited one of our immediate neighbours who lives ‘upstream’ from us, on the site of a former mill actually, that was probably demolished in the early 1800’s. The driveway to their house is lined with harebells, one of my favourite flowers. I have a weakness for all blue flowers actually. These bells always seem to appear after harvest, in late summer, but are better late than never. I so love their shy delicacy. G and E open their garden for ‘retreats’ and I can see why, it is so beautiful and such peace is all around; I could sit in their garden all day. G, a retired GP, is an octogenarian but doesn’t look it and is something of an expert on moths. Apparently he has kept a record of the moths around his house and garden since 1973! He sets special ‘traps’ that lure the moths overnight and every morning he goes to see what’s there and records them before letting them go of course. He has killed them in the past and gave a collection to Cardiff museum as they were without a Breconshire collection.

He told me some interesting facts. The bats love moths and can ‘smell’ them and hover around the traps. If a moth ‘sees’ a bat it will drop rapidly to the ground. Also a robin waits every morning outside the kitchen door to follow G out to inspect the traps; he too has a taste for them! Other birds join them at the trap too. Knowing creatures, birds and far more intelligent than we give them credit for. I’m sure they watch us just as much as we watch them. (Perhaps they’d list ‘human watching’ as one of their hobbies?) More likely they see us as a food source. I know I only have to go out with some food to one of the two tables and almost before my back is turned they are there feeding. And I swear they come and ask for food at the kitchen window. They hang around looking in the window at me while wearing a really ‘pathetic bird’ expression.

I keep a record of the wildlife around our cottage but not moths or butterflies, perhaps I should do so. I was pleased to hear that G has plenty of bats as ours have all but disappeared.

V and two of the girls and I went to Llandovery yesterday for a spot of shopping. It’s a lovely little town, very Welsh and you can hear the native language spoken quite a lot. There were a couple of market stalls and one was a gardening one which specialised in, guess what, David Austen roses! So I could have bought mine there and not travelled quite so far to a garden centre to buy them. The stallholder had a great selection and very healthy they were too. Once a month they have a farmers’ market in the town but it is always on a Saturday when I have to be at work. By the time I can get there everything is closed up. The town does have a good greengrocer’s though (and delicatessen), a wonderful butcher’s and health shop and lots of other ‘little shops’. V and I are hoping to reduce our supermarket shopping as much as we can but when you live miles from anywhere it is hard as you have to go and buy a lot in one go.

I haven’t done any blessings for what seems like ages. Here goes.

Angel Cards,.

Mine today is saying Reward Yourself. I haven’t consulted them for ages but I like this one! I asked it what should I do today? So self-indulgence is the order of the day, quite appropriate as I usually work at the weekend but am still on holiday.

Knowledge, Isn’t it a wonderful thing? I love learning something new every day.

Roses and their heavenly scent. Harebells too of course.

Purple Power. I say no more, some of you will understand.

Last but not least….

Laziness and self-indulgence, long may it last,

And before I go, a poem that mentions harebells only very briefly, but is a lovely read.
It‘s a long one by John Clare, save it and enjoy at your leisure…. I can only imagine a nightingale's song now as we have none in this part of the world.

The Nightingale's Nest

Up this green woodland-ride let's softly rove,
And list the nightingale— she dwells just here.
Hush ! let the wood-gate softly clap, for fear
The noise might drive her from her home of love ;
For here I've heard her many a merry year—
At morn, at eve, nay, all the live-long day,
As though she lived on song. This very spot,
Just where that old-man's-beard all wildly trails
Rude arbours o'er the road, and stops the way—
And where that child its blue-bell flowers hath got,
Laughing and creeping through the mossy rails—
There have I hunted like a very boy,
Creeping on hands and knees through matted thorn
To find her nest, and see her feed her young.
And vainly did I many hours employ :
All seemed as hidden as a thought unborn.
And where those crimping fern-leaves ramp among
The hazel's under boughs, I've nestled down,
And watched her while she sung ; and her renown
Hath made me marvel that so famed a bird
Should have no better dress than russet brown.
Her wings would tremble in her ecstasy,
And feathers stand on end, as 'twere with joy,
And mouth wide open to release her heart
Of its out-sobbing songs. The happiest part
Of summer's fame she shared, for so to me
Did happy fancies shapen her employ ;
But if I touched a bush, or scarcely stirred,
All in a moment stopt. I watched in vain :
The timid bird had left the hazel bush,
And at a distance hid to sing again.
Lost in a wilderness of listening leaves,
Rich Ecstasy would pour its luscious strain,
Till envy spurred the emulating thrush
To start less wild and scarce inferior songs ;
For while of half the year Care him bereaves,
To damp the ardour of his speckled breast ;
The nightingale to summer's life belongs,
And naked trees, and winter's nipping wrongs,
Are strangers to her music and her rest.
Her joys are evergreen, her world is wide—
Hark! there she is as usual— let's be hush—
For in this black-thorn clump, if rightly guest,
Her curious house is hidden. Part aside
These hazel branches in a gentle way,
And stoop right cautious 'neath the rustling boughs,
For we will have another search to day,
And hunt this fern-strewn thorn-clump round and round ;
And where this reeded wood-grass idly bows,
We'll wade right through, it is a likely nook :
In such like spots, and often on the ground,
They'll build, where rude boys never think to look—
Aye, as I live ! her secret nest is here,
Upon this white-thorn stump ! I've searched about
For hours in vain. There! put that bramble by—
Nay, trample on its branches and get near.
How subtle is the bird ! she started out,
And raised a plaintive note of danger nigh,
Ere we were past the brambles ; and now, near
Her nest, she sudden stops— as choking fear,
That might betray her home. So even now
We'll leave it as we found it : safety's guard
Of pathless solitudes shall keep it still.
See there! she's sitting on the old oak bough,
Mute in her fears ; our presence doth retard
Her joys, and doubt turns every rapture chill.
Sing on, sweet bird! may no worse hap befall
Thy visions, than the fear that now deceives.
We will not plunder music of its dower,
Nor turn this spot of happiness to thrall ;
For melody seems hid in every flower,
That blossoms near thy home. These harebells all
Seem bowing with the beautiful in song ;
And gaping cuckoo-flower, with spotted leaves,
Seems blushing of the singing it has heard.
How curious is the nest ; no other bird
Uses such loose materials, or weaves
Its dwelling in such spots : dead oaken leaves
Are placed without, and velvet moss within,
And little scraps of grass, and, scant and spare,
What scarcely seem materials, down and hair ;
For from men's haunts she nothing seems to win.
Yet Nature is the builder, and contrives
Homes for her children's comfort, even here ;
Where Solitude's disciples spend their lives
Unseen, save when a wanderer passes near
That loves such pleasant places. Deep adown,
The nest is made a hermit's mossy cell.
Snug lie her curious eggs in number five,
Of deadened green, or rather olive brown ;
And the old prickly thorn-bush guards them well.
So here we'll leave them, still unknown to wrong,
As the old woodland's legacy of song.

Bye for now,


Pondside said...

How exciting to see the Sparrow Hawk and to realize what all the avian activity was about!
I don't think I know what a harebell is - but I am going to look it up to see if we have them here. As far as I know we don't have any blue flowers that bloom this late.
So glad you're enjoying your time off.

Elizabethd said...

I love the daintiness of harebells, though they are rare here. Just occasionally I have found them, and love to see them growing in their natural state.
Continue to enjoy a lazy weekend.

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

beautiful harebells. i love blue flowers too. i was surprised to see harebells growing on the cliffs above the other side of the atlantic when we were in newfoundland. yesterday we went a long walk on the hills and there were loads in bloom on either side of the path, just lovely.

Blossomcottage said...

I have sparrow hawks coming low across the garden and buildings, I think its because all the sparrows in the country live in my roof, they shout and squabble all day long. Sadly the sparrow hawk cause mayhem from time to time and takes the young birds. Its nature I know but I hate to see it.

bodran... said...

We've got a sparrow hawk ' i chase him away because he trys to catch the young swallows and as succeeded a few times, a handsome chap though...The hare bells seem to be more abundent this year they must like the rain..x

snailbeachshepherdess said...

We too have whole swathes of harebells this year ...I think they must like our rubbish soil. A sparow hawk would dive bomb MIL's bird table like a harrier jump blue tit less in a second. Amazing bird.

mountainear said...

Harebells, beautiful, so delicate. Try as we may we can't get them to grow in the wild bits of the garden though, they thrive on the verges round here.

We saw a pair of kites in the Elan Valley on Wednesday. Big birds.

Frances said...

Hello Cait,
As our week away from work draws to a close, I have been reading some of your beautifully written blogs.

You've written about birds that I will never see. But you have let me see them. And let me learn what they might see, as well. Thank you.

I also wanted to comment on the previous blog about meeting soul mates, reincarnation, and other concepts that brought so many other comments.

Part of the luxury of my week off has been to give myself the opportunity to spend time with old friends. Friends that I have known for decades, but friends that have the same "modern" restrictions on their schedules as do I.

It was a glorious gift to myself. There is obviously something about these people, whom I met purely by chance, years ago and all of whom also came to New York from other places as young adults, that connects us.

We do not agree about everything. We do agree about much. We do have similar sympathies for what has been gained and lost as time has moved. We left the areas of the States in which we were raised to come to a high energy huge city and see what happened.

Years later, we now know a bit more about what has happened. It is interesting that although some of us are married, none of us has any children. Some of us regret this very much. (I am one of that some.)

I have, as usual to drift from my original thought. Think that original impulse was to say that it has been very rewarding to see my old pals, to remember old times, but mostly to wonder, together, where we may be headed. We continue to be very good ears for each other.

Many people who have connected on this site may feel the same.

(I am about a third of the way through the Dalai Lama's book, as well, and that reading has certainly provoked many thoughts.)


Gretel said...

Hi Cait, am glad I've found you too, and so enjoyed the John Clare - am rubbish at reading poetry, but I must get a volume of him.

Anonymous said...

Cait, as always, you capture the moment exquisitely. Your blogs have the same effect as sitting back, with a bar of Galaxy chocolate, on a rainy day when all chores are done, and there is nothing left to do but relax, let one's mind drift and feel at peace with ones inner self. Sheer indulgence...thank you!

Milkmaid said...

How lucky you are to have a selection of shops in your town, getting a bit limited round here, but we are surrounded by supermarkets
Like the sound of 'dairy of a demented housewife

Westerwitch/Headmistress said...

Saw a sparrow Hawk attack our bird table - don't know if anything was caught. One poor bird flew into the window in panic, but flew on.

Something I have never understood is why people who study butterflies and moths want to kill them - especially with the pin method - always struck me as a huge contradiction.

Oh I love harebells too . . .

Suffolkmum said...

Oh me too - harebells, and blue flowers in general. I've said it before, but I always get such a sense of connection from your blogs, I know you will always surprise me by reminding me of something I thought I'd forgotten, like that lovely John Clare poem. I also always think of the closing lines of Wuthering Heights when thinking of harebells.

CAMILLA said...

Hello Dear Cait,
Such beautiful pictures and wonderful poem by John clare. I love the simplicity and beauty of the Harebells. I adore David Austen Roses, have purchased quite a lot of the Pink variety from them over the years.

I remember reading the book Little Women, I still have it, it is wonderful. Love your Diary's Cait.


CAMILLA said...

P.S. Thank you for your kind comments Cait.


Fennie said...

Do you know I don't think I have ever knowingly seen a sparrow hawk, though I've often read about them. Probably I haven't recognised them - I'm not very good at birds. Loved your blog Cait, love what comes out of its soul - even the bats and the moths. Which reminds me that I once watched my grandfather, who was a great salmon fisherman, casting a fly in the dusk when a bat swooped out of nowhere and took the fly on the back cast. You'd think it impossible given the speed of the fly at the end of thirty feet of line, but sadly the little thing was truly hooked and done for.

laurie said...

beautiful pictures! sparrow hawks are fairly common here, so it's fun to read about how lovely it was for you to see one.

and "little women!" my mother named me after the two characters she always thought should get married--laurie, and jo.

Exmoorjane said...

I too love blue flowers...all the soft colours really - hazy purples and lilacs and palest greens and whites and creams..even the stray pink. Can't quite 'do' yellow somehow and (typical) this garden is packed to the rim with yellow, orange and red and vivid pink.
I love the very name of harebells...hares are so magical.

Fancy finding David Austen roses at the market! Love markets and love hearing Welsh - though the effect is spoiled when Adrian mangles it!

What did you think of Stephen Levine and the Quaker book? I too like the idea of the Demented Housewife book....must order it from the library.

Poetess said...

Getting the family history into some sort of order is next to impossible I think. I have been tracing my own and other familiry histories for the last 17 years and am addicted. I am always promising to get them into order but to no avail.