'I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out 'til sundown, for going out, I found was really going in.' John Muir

I've seen the top of Everest (from a long way off), smelled the breath of a whale (from way too close) and lived on a boat in Greece (for a few years), but I continue to experience some of my most precious moments right outside my backdoor.

If comments are proving difficult to do, please email me; sleepysparrow@yahoo.co.uk

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Christmas Crowds

‘Twas the Saturday before Christmas
 when all through the shops
the crowds they were pushing
and people were cross……………

So, instead we went for a walk during a break in the rain, about half an hour before it went dark. 
Still we encountered crowds………..
         Hundreds of ragged, black crows, cawing and cackling in the darkening sky, coming in from all points of the compass to settle in a stand of oaks.
                 Then, a familiar sound, like a hundred tiny football rattles - a troupe of long-tailed tits flitting through a gnarled tree, their long tails showing in silhouette against the last of the sky-light.
                Further on, a crowd of muddy sheep jostled in a field of bone-white turnip chunks.  Away from crows and long-tailed tits, the only sound was their ‘crunch – munch.’

These are the kind of crowds I love and when, to quote a line from Wendell Berry’s poem, ‘The Peace of Wild Things’………………
                     ‘I rest in the grace of the world and I am free.’
I hope you manage some time this holiday to slow down and enjoy 'the peace of wild things'.

Friday, 7 December 2012

How Long Does A Sparrow Sleep?

At 3.30pm I tuned my telly to BBTV (that's Bird Box TV), sat with a cup of  tea and waited.  My bird tumbled in to her box at precisely 3.50pm.  She fidgeted for a bit, preened, threw out some poo then settled in the corner, face to the wall, head tucked in over her shoulder, so that her feathers made a pretty swirl.  She looked like a wall nut whip with a tail.
I changed channels periodically throughout the evening and watched her sleeping.  You'd think it would be hard to see bird's breaths, but she breathes deeply and her tiny body pulses in and out with some force. 
The following morning, I took more tea into the living room and settled down to watch her wake.  It was getting light by 7.30 but she didn't move.  At 7.45 am, she woke suddenly, shook herself and immediately returned her head to its snoozing position with such force I felt sure she must've stabbed herself with her beak.  She obviously wasn't ready to face the world.  Perhaps she was dreaming of being chased by a sparrowhawk?  Do sparrow's dream?  Then at 7.50 am, she woke, and without any preening or shaking of feathers, just jumped up to the entrance hole and left.  

So, how long does a sparrow sleep?  16 hours!  Even longer than me in the winter!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

More Reasons to Love Libraries

When did you last visit your library?  They're not like they used to be, no 'Silence' signs or bosomy ladies glowering over their half-rimmed specs.  

I love mine, as soon as the doors close behind me, a new adventure awaits.  I can visit the moon, the top of Everest, swim with Humpbacked Whales, dive to the ocean's depths, learn a bit of Greek, I feel like Mr. Ben when he walks into the tailor's shop...........

My library's just had a make-over, a Gok, the full works.  Mossy green carpet, soft mint walls, comfy chairs, modern flat-pack book shelves snaking around the room.

I've discovered I can download e-magazines for free with my library number, so far I've got Countryfile, National Geographic, Cycling Plus.  I can also download audio books and e-books - for free! What a service.

It's quiet in my library at 5.45 pm, only the humming of the wall heaters, the swish of pages being turned and the satisfying clunk of the date stamp as someone takes out an armful of books.

For fun, I like to visit the Westerns section.  It's the only part of non-fiction that's not arranged alphabetically. The titles are fab - Desperado Doublecross, Last Stage to Gomorrah, Battle at Rattlesnake Pass, Last Chance at Devil's Canyon.
My Dad used to love Westerns as a lad, he'd come out of the Saturday morning cinema shooting imaginary arrows at his mates, who blew the smoke off the end of their imaginary pistols. Liverpudlian Desperados.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Todays Slow Moments

The satisfying 'shloop' of carrots being pulled from soft, wet soil.  I felt quite proud as I held them aloft, a startling orange against the ice blue sky, ideal noses for snowmen, I thought.
And there's enough left for Christmas Day.

Four starlings came clicking and whistling as soon as I hung out suet balls.  They seem to appear as soon as suet or cheese is on the menu, they must be watching the feeders from somewhere near.

A wren sang its ear piercing song as I collected leaves for compost. Sorry but I winced, involuntarily.  It's just that a second before the only sound had been the quiet rustle of leaves.

I think it's the turned up tail that gives the tiny bird that feisty, don't-mess-with-me-if-you-know-what's-good-for-you air. 

If you have nest boxes up around your garden, don't assume that they are empty at this time of the year.  Birds may use them to roost in on frosty nights.  Tiny wrens especially need somewhere to keep warm.  Although they are mostly seen alone in the garden,  they roost together, squatting in layers 2 or 3 deep with their heads facing inwards and their tails towards the entrance or sides.  I read that 60 birds have been seen huddling together in one box.  And they squabble a lot too, before they finally settle, some are chased away, definately not allowed in.  You can just see that can't you, that bird at the entrance, tail cocked, lungs bursting, ejecting other birds who aren't part of its gang.

I always thought that the collective noun for wrens didn't fit but after learning more about them, a 'herd' of wrens seems appropriate for the little bullies.