'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

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Slow Terns?

Not the Prairies but Gronant Dunes

I blog about SLOW things mainly. Taking time for noticing, sniffing, watching, being.  The little terns at Gronant beach don’t have much time for being slow right now.

This Sunday we responded to a plea on Facebook from the wardens at Gronant, the chicks are beginning to hatch and the kestrels have noticed.  Kestrels mostly eat voles and lizards but they will take little tern chicks.  The wardens reckon that having people placed carefully along the beach might help keep them at bay.   

From the path to the viewing platform, I spotted a reed bunting dressed like a country parson, singing in a tangled rose bush. It’s not a glamorous song but he’s persistent and I like his style.  High in the wide blue sky, specks of skylarks sang without pausing for breath.  And I’ll swear I heard the fishing reel sound of a grasshopper warbler coming from the tall grass. 

The edges of the board walk were lit up with deep pink orchids and silver sea holly like a glitzy catwalk.  As we approached the beach, the  creaky cries of little terns could be heard over the whistling marram grass.  We watched them overhead, bright white, like freshly laundered hankies fluttering in the breeze.  Some had tiny silver sand eels dangling from their beaks, others were chasing, swooping, landing, lost among the pebbles in the fenced-off colony.  

We chatted to Jack the warden, who was very bright-eyed even though he’d been on duty since 4am.  As we spoke a kestrel appeared, hovering over the dunes.  Jack ran off to the far end of the colony and we watched to see what it would do.  It hung motionless over the marram grass at the back of the colony then circled high and moved away.  Maybe our presence put it off?  Through my binoculars I could see it in aerial combat with a pair of buzzards. Obviously it has chicks somewhere in the vicinity and felt threatened by the presence of these big birds of prey.  So it goes in the natural world. Buzzards bother kestrels, kestrels bother little terns, little terns bother sand eels. 

Whether we helped see the kestrel off I don’t know. I do know that it was fantastic being at the colony. It felt big and wild there, we had a real sense of being right in the middle of nature's battle for survival.  And for me, I’m pretty sure a spell on a windswept beach under a big blue sky certainly helped my survival. I felt alive and ready for anything...though perhaps not being carried off by a kestrel.

Gronant has the potential to be the largest little tern colony in the UK this year but they need help.
If you’ve an hour or two to spare, get down there for a bit of reviving wildness and give a hand to protect these feisty little birds in the process. 

Or search for Gronant Little Terns on Facebook - their photographs of little tern chicks are very cute!

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Slow France

‘I have travelled the world, seen sights, met fascinating people, but only when I returned home did I become aware of the beauty on my own doorstep.’  Rabindrath Tagore

Sometimes it takes going away to make you appreciate where you live even more.  

And you can still be SLOW...

We are just home from France. We hadn’t planned to go. We were in the campervan, not too far from home, pedalling along the Mawddach Trail, the most beautiful cycle path in Wales, sneaking up on quiet herons, stopping to watch great crested grebes with their Everton toffee chicks.  A day or two later we trundled off to Hay on Wye to wander among musty books and lemon-drizzly-tea-shops.
Then the van just seemed to want to keep going south. So we stopped in a layby, booked a ferry from Dover, slept on the prom and next day we were in France.

I continued with the Wildlife Trusts #30 Days Wild Challenge (to do something wild each day in June) while we were away.  There are birds in France I don't hear in Wales, a nightingale sang in the Somme, turtle doves purred in the poplar trees of Champagne and a beaver nibbled reeds in a quiet corner of the largest lake in France (Lac du Der, south of Reims).

Being A Slow Tourist

We felt a gentle pull to the West and found ourselves in Normandy.  On the beach at Dives Sur Mer, from where a certain William the Conqueror set sail in 1066, I made patterns with shells on the beach.  I left them for the tide to play with and went for a long walk under a 'Monet sky' (The Impressionists were inspired by the wide skies and alabaster cliffs of this coast, we followed their Trail over the next few days).

When I came back, a little French girl in a turquoise swimsuit was busy adding to my display, a beautiful fish, more flowers and abstract patterns.  She was lost in her creativity. Maybe I had inspired her. Maybe she will be an artist one day, or maybe she just had a real fun SLOW day on the beach?
Fish added by little girl

Back home, the garden welcomed us with a couple of pints of strawberries, a bundle of rhubarb sticks and some curly kale.  I walked around with my cup of tea, dead-heading, pulling berries, inhaling the vanilla scent of clematis and apologising to my birds for being away. Slowly, they returned to the feeders and pecked at my apple offerings. 
The blackbird meanwhile, had discovered a corner of the bed where the strawberry net hadn't reached and was brazenly helping himself.  I let him go for it, enjoying seeing the strawberry colour smeared on his yellow beak.
It's nice to be home.