'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

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Early Morning Garden Party

'Get Uuuup Now, Get Uuuup now'. 
That's what a woodpigeon cooed outside my bedroom window this morning. I felt like turning over, but if I had I'd have missed these early morning garden treats...

Mr And Mrs Sparrow chewing the fat

A starling with lovely spots

A baby sparrow waiting to be fed

Blackbird taking a bath

This male sparrow sits here every morning, chirping for all he's worth to attract a mate, no luck so far.

Tulips still asleep

Wide awake primroses

Glowing rhubarb

Courgette seedlings

So thanks for waking me up wood pigeon.  I'm glad I didn't miss this early morning in my garden. It was a real treat for the senses and set me up for the day ahead.  
Take your morning cuppa outside for 10 minutes before you rush on with the day, you never know what you might see, hear, smell.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

A New Way

'One's destination is never a place but a new way of seeing things.'  Henry Miller

This is a quote from my book The Slow Tourist.  Today we decided to follow the instructions on page 14 and walk along a public footpath we've never been on before.  Here is what we found...

Bluebells beginning to appear
clumps of primroses
The Spirit of the Woods

A Bluetit's bottom

Silver Birches like brushes painting the sky

A peacock butterfly enjoying dandelion nectar

A tree window

A secret bank of primroses

Blossom alive with buzzing bees

And a fine view of Moel Famau

We've lived here for over 30 years and never followed this footpath before.  We walked for three hours and didn't see another person, only birds, bees, butterflies and lambs.  We had an epic adventure - without going very far, just like it says in my book

It also says;
Get an OS map of your area, find a footpath and follow it. Take a note book and pen, draw the flowers, bees, birds - just doodle, you don't have to be an artist.  Write what you see, how you feel.  Record the sounds on your mobile phone or a simple sound recorder, make a sound scape of your patch.  Who knows, in years to come, what you record in your notebook might prove to be of real interest to someone.  You might record a species that no longer exists or one that's new for that area. Even if you live in a town, sketch the buildings, record sounds in the parks, look for wildlife like peregrines nesting on tall buildings. 

But most of all, just enjoy what's on your doorstep.  

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Welcome Back Warblers!

'Willow warblers...are amazing little birds: so small, such courageous travellers, so sweet a voice, such fierce competitors. It is when you can hear the first willow warbler of the spring and know it for what it is that you have passed the point of no return.  You have finished and revelled in chapter three of Ulysses. You have become a birdlistner. You are committed. And once you have done that, you know a lifetime of pleasure lies before you. Once you have cracked the willow warbler, you're a goner.'

The above is a quote from Simon Barnes' wonderful book 'birdwatching with your eyes closed.'

Yesterday evening, we took a slow walk over the iron age hillfort and across Halkyn Common, laughing at lambs lounging in the late sun, gulping air filled with the lettucey taste of new grass.  We stopped abruptly, looked at each other, cocked our heads on one side and grinned; huge grins that spread across our faces until there was almost no room left.  There was no mistaking that sweet scale-tumbling song. The willow warblers are back safely from Africa.  

It didn't go unnoticed that this moment of joy came on a day of harrowing news reports of the plight of human migrants.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Springtime Slaughter

Just as I'm rejoicing at the first swallow and the arrival of my chiff-chaff and while I'm waiting for all the other birds to come back home and fill the woods with their song, I read this news on the BBC web page -

'Hunters win Malta bird referendum on shooting ban.
Malta has narrowly rejected proposals to ban controversial spring hunting, during which migrating birds are shot before they can breed.

There were jubilant scenes in the counting hall as the pro-hunt activists celebrated victory, which was achieved by only 2,200 votes.
The BBC's Mario Cacciottolo in a tweet says that hunters' association head Joe Perici Calascione is "ecstatic" about the outcome of the vote and has described hunting as an integral part of Maltese tradition.

Malta is the only EU country that allows recreational spring hunting.'

This particular 'tradition' allows for the shooting of turtle doves and quail, though who knows what other birds will be shot in the name of tradition?  Malta has a pretty bad track record and groups like Birdlife International and the RSPB have been working on the island for years to try and prevent the needless slaughter of many birds, including birds of prey and song birds on their way North.

I have heard turtle doves in Italy and their soft purring song is mesmerizing and calming, like a meditative chant.  They are dainty birds and a delight to listen to on a warm summer's evening.  They do exist in this country but mainly in the South and they are on the RED list, meaning they are globally threatened.
Now that hunters in Malta can legally shoot them in the spring time before they have had chance to breed, we are even less likely to hear them here.

It's a sad, sad day for man'kind'.

If you go to www.rspb.org.uk and look up turtle dove, you can hear a recording of their special song.

Thankfully this little sparrow is safe from Macho Maltese hunters.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Reasons to be cheerful - Swallows and Rhubarb!

The swallows are back!  I look out for them arriving every year and I saw my first one this week, swooping through the dusky sky, no doubt relieved to have arrived safely.  It’s swapped red, African dirt for the green hills of Wales and right now it looks like a fair swap.  Lambs are springing like wind-up toys, cherry trees are frothy with blossom, the daffodils are bright suns shining along all the verges and the rest of the bird clan are cramming the air with their spring song.

The first birds of the season are always a delight.  When I open my back door on a chilly spring morning and hear that familiar ‘chiff-chaff, chiff-chaff,’ I break into a huge grin.  The tiny olive bird is the first of the warblers to return from Africa and soon there’ll be willow warblers, black caps, garden warblers and all the others.
And talking of ‘firsts’, this week we had the first of the rhubarb from the garden, lightly poached with a little red wine and brown sugar, delicious!

Go for a slow walk this weekend and see if you can spot a swallow - it's come a long, long way so give it a wave. 

And why not plant some rhubarb in a forgotten corner of your patch? You can just leave it to get on with the business of growing, which it will do effortlessly, and then give you juicy sticks to eat with ginger and ice cream.

To see the difference between swallows and house martins look on www.rspb.org.uk

Let me know if you see any!  Click on the blog title (Reasons to be cheerful) to bring up the comments box.  Or email me at sleepysparrow@yahoo.co.uk