Monday, 26 March 2012


At about 5-o-clock this afternoon I started tidying up my building tools and ferrying them back to the shed from where I'm building a wall. Silently and swiftly a bird flew past me at waist height and landed ahead of me in the low afternoon sunshine almost spayed over the tiles of the neighbour's roof. Clearly deliberately poised by the edge of the gable, so that it could peer around the side of the building, it sat motionless and within 10 feet of the nesting sparrows I watched only yesterday. I had time to call my sons over and to hold them up so that they could see it, sharp eyes and yellow feet, and then to run inside to find my camera. I managed to sneak up from behind the apple tree in the front garden to get some photographs quickly, having learned to shoot first and think later. I managed to get about 10 photographs before with a twitch of it's head it dropped off the side of the roof and flew low and away across the back garden again in search of other distracted springtime sparrows, clearly not enjoying the audience.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Hail to thee, blithe spirit

There is little point in trying to outdo Shelley's memorable description, and definitely not the bird itself, so simply, here is a recent recording of a skylark:

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Feathering their nest.

We put up a new bird box a week ago, taking advantage of the scaffolding currently around our house, and today there are sparrows nesting in it already. I was alerted to the birds by their wonderful chirpy calls and watched, the male?, bouncing around on the scaffolding next to the bird box before jumping onto the front to peer into the hole. This continued for about half an hour actively with him returning every minute or so, presumably with grubs and worms for his partner inside. There was another sparrow clearly watching which seemed to accompany him and I only got very fleeting glimpses of the bird inside the house. For all I know they have been settling in for a week and I've been at work and oblivious and it was only on Saturday that I noticed them as I was sitting in the 8-o-clock spring morning sunshine enjoying the chaffinches and blackbirds calling away. I didn't see him bring any nest materials and noticed that the activity tailed off later in the day but that he was busy again first thing on Sunday morning also. I had initially drilled a hole and poked a stick into the front of the bird house, as a perch, but this has gone and clearly isn't needed as the little sparrow effortlessly fluttered up to the front and grasped on with its feet or rested on the house roof before dropping over the front. I also observed that although it poked it's head into the house each time, it didn't ever actually go into the house ?

Friday, 23 March 2012

Spring things

I've been rather distracted for a few weeks by 'acting' as I appeared and died in a recent Agatha Christie play, and alongside work and family it has rather reduced daylight hedge-finder opportunities. However I remember a few notable recent observations. Swerving to avoid mating toads crossing the road embraced and oblivious on the levels near Mere. Amazed to see a large crane, flying high over the trees as I drove into Bath to drop a sculpture off for an exhibition two weeks ago. A tired spring honey bee on the scaffolding plank next to my face as I lay painting a window frame, dopey with pollen laden legs. The sudden return this week of butterflies, with brimstones in the sunshine on the tree lined lane to the playing fields and pairs of the first tortoiseshells tumbling into the road and I think the first waking peacock this afternoon, fleeting past as I drove the back road into Ashcott. Suicidal baby rabbits bowling on and off the verges as I cycle to work and newly excavated holes and burrows in all of the ditches, the ground still bare but with plants just waiting to explode with green and hide everything.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Another day, another bumblebee...

I saw my first specimen of a Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum) today, a queen. This bumblebee was only first seen in the UK in 2000 and has spread quite rapidly but I had not seen it until today. It's actually one of the easiest common bumblebees to distinguish with its 3 clear colour bands - ginger/orange thorax, black abdomen and white tail - so an easy ID even with a quick glance. Exciting stuff (must get out more...)

Also saw the first Brimstone of the year. Lovely signs of spring.