of gorse! (16/July/18)

… and another thing, Anglesey seems to have a county flower, the Spotted Rock-rose, Tuberaria guttata, which curiously is not that well-known and not everywhere here, I wonder what the value is of having a symbol for a place that hardly anyone even knows let alone has seen, irrespective of it being an attractive plant and of conservation importance, but not it seems so much cultural importance which I would think may be a more significant reason for a choice… but what is ubiquitous and evident throughout the year is one of which it is said that if there’s ever a time it’s not in flower somewhere then love is lost, so the lore goes, ’m talkin’ ‘bout Gorse, Ulex spp, like the rock-rose also yellow but there the similarities end… it boasts spiny green leaves, smells of coconut, found in hedgerows, actually even making entire hedges on its own, on dunes, in gardens, on moor, rocky outcrops and often the thinnest of soil, bog, grassland, roadside verges, it’s everywhere you turn and I’d say pretty much everyone knows what it is with perhaps the exception of people to dim to notice anything beyond their own nose…. but it’s already been proven time and time again, no one listens to me anyway…. there doesn’t seem to be a bird for the county yet and it’d probably be either brave or foolish of me to suggest one so strong and vociferous can emotions be with regard to birds, favourite or otherwise… so… call me brave or foolish, or both, because I’m risking it and nominating the Herring Gull… I hear gasps of shock, horror, disbelief!… are you mad?!… well, a bit yes, but I bet no one else has it as theirs, quite possibly because it arouses strong opinions but it’s certainly an underdog, which is a strange thing to say about a bird but ‘underbird’ just doesn’t sound right…. it’s a grossly misunderstood bird all too often blamed for our own actions and faults and probably suffers at the hands of anthropomorphism more than any other bird… perhaps less controversial choices would be the Raven or the Barn Owl, Chough though I think Cornwall’s already bagged that one, or Puffin though some where’s bound to have snaffled that one too, all for good reasons of course, perhaps a little obvious but hey, remember I am the one suggesting Herring Gull… outliers in a poll might be the Sandwich Tern though only a summer breeder, not unlike another fave of mine the rare and overlooked Black Guillemot…… there’s my mixed bag of feathers to comb over…… county mammal?.. well there aren’t many to choose from and the most we have of any are sheep though they wouldn’t fulfill the brief of not being at least a wild animal and for all there ae some bolshie sheep none are technically wild… so I’d go with Otter though, Brown Hare or Red Squirrel though I think the latter would be a disingenuous choice… what about the Rabbit?… certainly no shortage of them and like sheep, everywhere… what about a county beetle?….  ok, time to stop now………

© 2018 robert greig

duskanery (13/June/18)

the dusk chorus is much underrated when set against that of the dawn chorus, largely ignored by most as not even deemed chorus enough, or at all… it is different, that’s true, probably more casual, perhaps less organised, and certainly never as cacophonous, in a way comparatively minimal in orchestration as though the conductor has gone home leaving the musicians to fend for themselves each with their own different half-remembered scores… like a warm-up but in fact a warm-down as the small hours beckon and long ones dissolve… leaving the past behind?… where else would one leave it but behind?……it’s been a particularly difficult day for fatigue today, spent a lot of it on my back, flat out, on the floor, on the sofa, anywhere but bed, couldn’t go there, bed means bedtime and one in the afternoon just wasn’t… unable to even speak for large swathes of hours and only moving, only able to conjure enough will, when I had too, nature-calls and such… evening swooped in along with the martins, though they’d been here all day frisking the skyways alongside the swallows they were now more obvious as many day-things were winding down or ceased altogether leaving the skies quieter, and hence anything cutting through them more evident… the birds cut across streaks of dissipating vapour trails worn by hours of inattention leaving them, like me, faded, jaded, albeit these muted lines stretched at a much higher altitude than these avian insectivores…. then, literally in fact, from out of the blue, swifts, two swifts, then four, four swifts excitedly appeared as though ta-daa’d from a different dimension, sweeping and sifting the air, black arrowheads pierce the listless light skilfully avoiding the martins flight path, and vice versa…. the Song Thrush, there, in the bottom of the garden, atop an ash tree, singing, surely the best soloist of the dusk chorus here performing his pibroch…. two magpies causing kerfuffle again, as they do, cheeky ‘mongers, much to the garden’s smaller bird residents… amazing birds but they don’t really feel the need to contribute to the chorus except with a sudden burst of dissonance every now and then… mind you, unlike the dawn chorus not all birds indulge, just a few, clearly the more diligent…. it has a random, unformed quality, still carrying all the same conviction but with a more inward intensity, less showy…… the ground elder’s glowing, its white umbrellas commandeering what filtered light clings now, a much-maligned plant and I suppose its over-enthusiastic habit of taking over gardens doesn’t earn it many brownie-points, but look at it now, a sea of white waves slipping off to sleep………

© 2018 robert greig

an owl called Noel (28/May/18)

… and as for the Little Owl, called Little because yes you guessed it is little, or litter than our other owls though not the littlest owl in the world it is in the UK.. anyway, as for the Little Owl (no déjà vu as such, I said it earlier in the sentence…) they aren’t ones for wasting time nesting in trees, all that hard work playing pick-up-sticks and trying to fashion something many less-birdy humans have come to regard as a bird nest, instead they like holes, holes in things, in anything really, even a breezeblock, I know as I once watched a pair raise a brood in one and I thought imagine being raised in basically a building block then thought actually that’s what most of us are, just ours are slightly larger in involve more than one, but what little owls do enjoy is a good bit of burrowing especially being they live large on worms and suchlike wriggly things and even some things that don’t wriggle unless you have them on your mouth, or beak, when pretty much anything alive will unceremoniously wriggle, and not in a happy way like one might say doing The Twist or the jive, no, more in a “wtf!” kind of way just before they are invariably chomped in half a duly swallowed… no nicey, nicey nature notes from me, this is no Disney blog…. they like it so much, burrowing that is, they will even nest in them, burrows that is, holes in the ground, underground, preferably ones in mounds of hillocks or earth walls, although they won’t start one from scratch, they aren’t that industrious and prefer the opportunists route, i.e. let a rabbit do all the hard work first then swoop in and squat thereby claiming ownership on the back of (not literally of course, an owl sat on the back of a rabbit paints a bizarre image) the rabbits industrious graft making it effectively homeless and having to go dig yet another one all over again most likely with a most disgruntled expression hanging from its lagomorphic  face…… the first time I came across little owls, as in really paid any attention to them was on a small Welsh island, smaller than the one I’m one now, and even though still a relatively uncommon bird, this lump of rocks supported five pairs, five!… first evidenced from their sharp sudden kweek!-bursts, especially at dusk, when they seemed well into kweeking!-off at each other to assert themselves, being so little, hence the name, they make up for it in kweeks!… and they lived in burrows, all but one pair that lived in a stone barn field boundary, burrows in slightly tumbled-down clawdd, cloddiau, or earth and stone walls having evicted the previous furry flop-eared residents… and as for the rabbits, well, there’s another tale, to accidentally coin a pun, which I will no doubt tell some time… once I knew where the burrows were, being part of my job as a bird warden, I could predict where they’d roost, invariably in snaggly gorse bushes overhanging the burrows being as invisible as they could be on an windswept island with barely any trees… I could never sneak up on them too close as they always, always knew I was there, peeking one half-wide then full-wide eye in my camouflaged direction, as such I also call them ‘Look Owls‘, and yes I know all owls do similar with their equally starey big eyes but none stare quite like a Little Owl…. and one I got very familiar with in particular I decided to name, for no good reason other than I could, and called him Noel… Noel the Owl……… … …

© 2018 robert greig