The Natural World

Planting Trees for Song Thrushes

Me and Pad (see what I done there?) went down to his forest in East Cork to plant trees the other day. It’s a Sitka Spruce forest, set out in the mid nineties I think, and himself wants to plant other trees there, wherever they can get a hold, with a bit of light and a bit of rain and a bit of luck. The forest was thinned a couple of years ago and there are pockets of brightness here and there now, where his own seedlings might prosper.

Five Days Walking in France – Day 5: Saint-Jean-de-Côle et Angoulême

We did a bit of sightseeing before today’s walk (our last of 2016 together) in Saint-Jean-de-Côle, which is listed as one of the most beautiful villages in France. M. Besson and most of the books had recommended it. And the Romanesque Byzantine church to Saint-Jean Baptiste  was very special I must say, its stone walls almost white, with small rounded chapels to the side. They had choral music playing through the sound-system and long elegant candles (Pad and I lit two) and I could have stayed there longer and prayed. There was a map on a notice board at the side showing a walk through the village all the way to Santiago de Compostela, a good walk, beginning in Vezelay – almost 1,500 km according to Googlemaps. Now that would be a walk and a talk. But we agreed to settle for somewhat less that Friday. Maybe some other time.

Five Days Walking in France – Day 3: Spotted Apples

Reader, we ate them. The spotted apples on the tree on the short walk outside Nontron. On the winding road near the stream, the little apple tree just there, as pastoral a picture as you could hope for. I wish I’d taken a photo now. I remembered those lines from Big Yellow Taxi:

Rodney’s Hunkering Down

Rodney’s getting ready for Winter. He’s okay with its imminence. Some Summer days in South Leinster, where he lives, its bloody boiling hot and even lying the shade isn’t enough. Not a lot of people know this, but dogs have a higher temperature than humans. And the heat these days in people’s houses is the cause of a significant amount of respiratory illnesses and asthma in dogs. Rodney knows this.

I’m devilishly handsome

I’m devilishly handsome. I like that word ‘devilishly’. It suits me. We corvids (crows, if you wish) don’t believe in gods or devils, obviously. Though we do have a healthy respect for what you humans call ‘nature’. You used to have that respect, too, once. But you’ve forgotten most of what you ever knew. You can call me Raxia Bluefeather. It’s not my name, but it’ll do. As has been explained before, the names of rooks is very important to us and far too complex for your minds. Not too complex, perhaps – that’s not fair. But it would be alien to you. Incomprehensible. I’ll leave it there.

Clarence the wren is not happy

My name is Clarence Cavedweller Passiformus V. It’s a wren thing. We are from the family Troglodytidae after all. Not a lot of people know this, but in Latin the ae at the end of words is pronounced i. Just saying. My father was a Greek scholar as well as Latin. I’m Irish and I must say I do like the Irish term: dreoilín. Nice ring to it.

The Swallows are here

I came out of the café and looked to my right, and there she was: the first swallow of the summer. The unmistakable forked tail streaming below the wire, the pale breast, tawny in the soft morning light, the hint of cobalt and burnt orange. Her mate flew by and she rose in a sweep and they both entered the open door of the barn. The swallows are here!

Lá ‘le Bríde

And so, we have St. Brigid’s Day. Lá ‘le Bríde. February 1st. We made it! We got battered and bruised by storms Abigail, Barney, Clodagh, Desmond, Eva, Frank, and Gertrude, but you know what? We’re still here and they’re gone. That’s what. And now we’ve Henry but that will pass too. Now we’ll see the days lengthening. Now we’ll start to feel the touch of Spring, like a girl who knows she’s going to be kissed for the first time, any moment, any moment, any moment… NOW. And summer not far behind. I can already hear the sweet shriek of the Swift in the high bright air. I see a glint in Jackdaws’ eyes as they coolly watch me cycling by. I was down in Crosshaven early yesterday (sitting outside a café, after a cycle – in January) and a young Rook was hopping around picking up crumbs. He has

On Winter Nasturtiums

I always look out to the garden (such as it is) when I’m having my breakfast (such as it is), even in the paling grey mornings of an Irish November* (such as they are). Just joking. The garden is fine, and the breakfast finer. And mornings bring miracles and the hope of renewal. And outside the window there is a patio area and a concrete retaining wall painted white by my own hand. And growing from the apparently barren pebbles on the shaded ground below a proud unlikely nasturtium flourishes each year. It appears in early Summer, full of curiosity and hope (as perennials do) and crawls its tiptoe creep along the stones and the patio slabs. One, two, three, four stems grow and thicken and seek the purchase they need to go upwards, onward, towards the bounty of light. Like fingers feeling under the bed sheets for the promise

First Frost

And so we get frost, we get frost. Frost on the car windows below on the road; frost on Hayes’s flat roof. The faint hint of it on the tips of the long grass out the back, just lightening the green to a silvery grey. But it’s a soft one – nothing on the discarded Christmas Tree on the gravel, solemnly awaiting its butchering. Nothing on the damp table top, still pristine after my Autumn varnishing. Imagine. The first frost of the Winter on the tenth of January. Jasmine flowering against the back wall. The fern still intact, only a touch of russet on its fine, kiwi-green fronds. The daffodils about to grant us new gold. And as I wander out on the landing on this Sunday morning I see cloud lining the river to the north. It’s there, above the water, and only there, behind Ashton’s new school and