It seems as if we've had a permanent veil over the sky since October. We haven't, because our solar panels have been registering a regular spike in output every week or so (!), but it does feel like an eternally grey winter. Nevertheless, there are some signs that spring's on the way. The plants in both woods and garden have pushed out some perhaps optimistic shoots: Elder, Pignut and Perennial Dog's-mercury in the woods, Snowdrop, crocus, daffodils and Rhubarb in the garden. The latter in particular seems to have been stalled by the past week's dip in temperature, so the ruby-red stalks and crinkly green leaves are still only half-way extended. We'll have a while to wait until we can have rhubarb crumble again!
The birds are hinting - and more than hinting - at a change in season too. Blackbirds have been tuning up for a few days now, with Robins, Dunnocks and both Song and Mistle Thrush going at it hammer and tongs in the morning. Cycling to Yarner recently added Chaffinch, Nuthatch and Green Woodpecker to the years' new songsters as well, so perhaps there will be blue skies again sometime soon. A pair of Blue Tits have been busily investigating the nestboxes we've provided on the extension (meant for sparrows, but we don't mind who uses them really), so hopefully we'll have a successful nest this year.
We were privileged last weekend to have a small flock of Waxwings at the end of the garden. A fabulous bird to have on the garden list when you live this far southwest. They spent a lot of their time sat in the oaks just across from our kitchen, making sallies into someone's back garden where they'd found a supply of red berries of some description; they would drop down, spend a few minutes stocking up and then sail back to the top of an oak, often with berry in bill, to sit and digest for a few minutes. They also spent some time picking at the buds at the top of the trees, though it was impossible to see what was of interest - any fragments were too small to be identified even through the telescope, so whether insects (most likely) or sap, or leafbud, will remain a mystery.
I'm also slightly intrigued that they seem to show so little interest in mistletoe when they're here in Britain. In Austria, where there is admittedly a far higher density of mistletoe than around here, I've seen flocks of Waxwings up to several hundred strong busily engaged in stripping mistletoe (causing apoplectic fury in the Mistle Thrushes), yet they seem wedded to red berries here - or apples.
Roll on summertime...!
|Bohemian Waxwings. Slightly fuzzy due to being photographed through the 'scope at 1/30th of a second and on high ISO. Told you it was dark & grey...|