Day 47

Yesterday evening provided a striking sunset. The Sun appeared from behind the solid bank of cloud on its descent and glowed orange in a narrow, low band of clear sky on the horizon. The light was flooded out under the cloud bank across the reed beds, reflecting off the bottom of the clouds and the top of the rain-filled pools. The reeds edged the scene as inverted tassels against the glow.

Shelducks, a redshank and a typically morose heron were some of the few birds visible. Two hares raced around the pasture and a muntjac deer had come down and across the road from the heath onto the path. It disappeared in the dusk. Bats were active around the green and the village cats were gathering again.

That cloud bank dominated today. Sunlight made a brief appearance in the morning, but it soon dulled to leave a grey day. Mowing the grass was done with care. I had an eye out for a toad that had been seen by the tiny pond under the wild plum tree. The scent of fresh cut grass filled the air for much of the afternoon until the smell of cooking eventually predominated.

The grass cutting temporarily dissuaded the birds from the garden, but eventually chaffinches, sparrows and robins came back over the fence. The young robin with its parent frequently returned to feed, as well as a third beautifully marked solitary adult. Blue tits seem to have nested in the old nest box hung on the side of the shed.

The two brown rats made brief visits and stimulated vigorous investigations of possible hideaways. There are signs of their tunnelling, but of course they have chosen places that are not easily reached. The growing confidence of the clever rat has led to the re-siting of the bird fat, which now hangs in a small metal cage from the washing line. How attractive this is to the local bird fraternity is questionable. The nut feeders have also been moved to the far end of the garden near the shed. The birds will find them sooner or later, but they have plenty of naturally available food to eat at this time of year. 

In the past few days I have seen many blackbirds of both sexes travelling with beaks filled with various small worms and centipedes. The earlier rain and now the mowing have encouraged the blackbirds to strut about on the lawn, tails proudly raised. These birds are enthusiastic in the pursuit of earthworms and they have been quick to take advantage of the need for the worms to move closer to the surface after the recent showers.

One thing that I need to investigate is the fascination that one chaffinch in particular seems to have with a shallow hollow in the lawn not far from the backroom window. It returns time and again and gets low into the same dip in the ground and busies itself with picking at the ground there. Are there ants there?

The yellow appearance of oak tree leaves is not good news, as I thought. Acute Oak Decline (AOD) is prevalent across East Anglia and in other regions of the British Isles. The appearance of young yellow leaves is a symptom ill-health.

The bark is badly affected by the disease and mature oaks, that might otherwise live for hundreds of years, are being killed off within four to five years by infection. There is research being carried out on whether the native oak jewel beetle is part of the problem, or whether it is attracted to the decaying bark of infected trees. The symptoms of this disease have been known of since 1918, but only now is an extensive research project being carried out.

This grey day passes quietly. No cuckoos that I am aware of, but a lark, the robins and blackbirds sing on regardless of the low light levels.

Along the footpaths, lanes and byways the Alexander plants are running riot in the absence of the local council verge trimming services; another consequence, dare I say, of central government cut-backs. One of the villagers has taken it on himself to tackle these invasive, gigantic, celery-like plants near his house with a sickle.

I enjoy talking with you this afternoon. The hundreds of kilometres of separation closes in an instant when I hear your voice.

.

Christopher Perry

3rd May, 2020

Wick’s End

We lit the candle together
Holding the splint, hand over hand
Flame flared, formed, flickered
Came to life

We laughed and blew out the taper
Followed its dissipating smoke into the dark
Turned our eyes to the fresh wax light
To sprites dancing on the walls

Laid enrapt until drowsy
In warmth formed bonds
Of breath and limbs
We fell to sleep sapped of strength

Frost crept across the pane
A spider spun its web
Hours slid together
As we un-knowing lolled apart

I awoke to shivering air
The unclosed door
Branches silhouetted against the sky
Shrivelled candle cold

.

Christopher Perry

3rd May, 2020

Day 46

Winds from the south-west are more amenable than most. They will make it easier for the swifts to get here. Swifts are the birds of summer for me. I look forward to their arrival in the next few days.

In the interim swallows and martins are becoming more common now. I watched two martins gathering mud from the creek this morning for nest building. As the tide runs out the River Glaven rapidly empties, exposing silty shoals for the house martins to collect mud for their inverted adobe nests under the eaves of the older houses of the village. Sadly, one still hears of some people in the village who knock down the mud nests with a broom in order to keep their house walls tidy.

A red kite circles the village. At one point it turns in a slow gliding movement with wings fully spread. It becomes backlit by the high sun thereby exposing the full beauty of its wing patterning. The bird becomes more than just a shadow in the sky. Each kite’s markings are unique within the natural range of the species and this moment of rare illumination gives a sense of this big raptor being an individual.

Yesterday afternoon I heard one cuckoo, but today, while sitting at the front porch, one calls from a tree just to my right and then another responds from down the lane, toward the church. After a couple of exchanges between these two, a third more distant cuckooing carries down the hill. Was there a fourth, fainter from further? This was the first time that I had heard more than a couple of these birds calling to each other. Their collective presence may not be good news for nest-builders locally, but as an addition to the orchestra of birdsongs here this spring, it is wonderful to hear them.

I stretch out on the wooden bench in the garden during the early afternoon to enjoy feeling the sun heat my bare chest. There is no reason to be anywhere else.

You are busy elsewhere. I am not. I look forward to speaking with you again when the time is right.

.

Christopher Perry

2nd May 2020