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Posts tagged ‘birds’

And suddenly it is spring again

At last we are past the “beastly month” of February and suddenly it is spring again here in Ireland. For several weeks trees have been shrouded in a soft patina of green as the leaves begin to emerge. Daffodils are flowering all along the roadside. In the morning I wake to the sound of cooing from returning doves and pigeons and the sunsets are back in all their glory. A few of our daffodils were broken by the wind so we picked them and brought them inside and on Friday Jacqui produced a “bouquet of sunshine” from the market. Yes, spring is certainly here again.

Sunshine in a vase

This is not to say the weather has been wonderful – far from it. Three storms swept across us, each worse than the last. Knowing how fragile the electricity supply can be we were prepared this time. We had hoarded lots of batteries for storm lanterns and those round press-on lights. We had flasks filled regularly with boiling water and a five-litre stand-by container for drinking (and the dogs of course). Extra wood was stacked inside the porch and we did a big shop in case the roads flooded and we couldn’t get out.

A bit more atmospheric than we expected

I watched the outages on the supply company’s handy app. They circled us but despite some dreadful weather and gales we were unscathed. Until the Monday when, as Storm Franklin left Ireland heading to the UK, all the lights went out. A glance at the handy app said we could expect at least 4 hours without power so I unpacked the camping stove, we put the lights around the kitchen and I made dinner on the single ring. It was rather like being back in my bed-sit days though the camping stove was a sight more efficient than any Baby Belling I experienced. Perfect one-pan cooking – anyone for corned beef hash?

Stand by for take-off!

Although we escaped any real damage in the storm, thanks to Fergus and his excellent tree-cutting, the rain filled the old peat cuttings in the woods next to the track. This year the little lake rose to the lip of the road but didn’t overflow. It has made a nice place for the geese who have returned already, along with a pair of swans. The geese fly in each morning, about forty of them all shouting and flapping over the house. It’s quite a sight, matched in the evening when they take off en-masse and head for the lake about eight kilometres away. They regularly pick their way around the field across the road and take off in a cloud, fly round and settle again. We have such noisy neighbours!

We’ve got the bikes now, delivered by the sterling Derek Madden. We are now embarking on the endless round of bureaucracy required to register them, tax them and make it legal for us to finally ride them. There are no NCT rules for bikes in Ireland, the equivalent to the MOT in the UK, but we still need new plates, VAT assessment and registration tax to be paid, helmets and insurance. Our nearest supplier of motorbike helmets is half-way to Limerick. Apparently most people order them on-line now. How do they know the helmets fit properly? I’m going to ring the shop before we go to warn them two pinheaded little women are coming. Don’t want to go all that way for nothing.

The last couple of days I’ve had a problem with another bird – smaller bird but bigger problem. There’s a young Blue Tit that has taken to flying at one of the kitchen windows. I’ve tried waving and shouting to chase it away but it’s back five minutes later. I’ve tried drawing the curtains but this didn’t work for more than a day. Jacqui painted a decal to fix inside the glass and now it goes off to one side. Has anyone got any suggestions? We have no idea why it keeps doing this and it’s going to be more concussed than a rugby prop soon. All suggestions gratefully received.

Although it is spring again it is actually colder at night than in winter. I noticed in late autumn the ground frosted and standing water froze solid. The same is happening now despite the warmer days. There was no freezing and very little frost through the winter up here. Maybe it is to do with the clear skies. When I let the dogs out at night the stars are bright and hard and the moon is sharp. In winter there were clouds, lots of clouds. Still, it doesn’t stop me standing to gaze up for a few minutes.

The skies are beautiful here.

What a difference a day makes – and two lovely men.

We are slowly chipping away at all the stuff that needs doing and are surprised at the end of each week at how much we have managed to do. This week we had some help, in the form of Will and Anthony, two of Derek Madden’s “Merry Men”. They were the crew who helped us move in back in February and they turned up on Wednesday to do a blitz job on some of the most pressing areas of the garden and surrounds. They had intended coming on Monday but the weather took a turn for the worst and the jobs were not the sort you want to do in pouring rain and high winds.

It was still a bit uncertain when they arrived but these two lovely men tackled the Majestic, moving some of the wood in to dry. They put more weed mat over the side ground, cleared out the gutters and then – tackled the front hedge. This had gone feral over the summer and the poor postie was in danger of losing an eye trying to get through. What a difference a day makes!

They were quite apologetic it was a bit ragged but it was way better than we expected. The growth has been enthusiastic but random and it will take a year or so to thicken up. Then we can think about shaping it a bit more. Will and Antony did an amazing job, even putting a bit of a slope on the front. It was too wet to tackle the grass but hopefully they might come back when we have a few fine days and work their magic on the back garden too. They also made Jacqui’s day. We explained we were struggling with these heavier jobs, with Jacqui’s health and our slowly advancing age. When they heard how old Jacqui was they paid a great Irish compliment.
“Jeez, but you’re fresh!” Another for the language list I think.

We have had a number of encounters with our neighbours this week. At the weekend we met Des from the farm across the field. We had already made friends with his partner, Julie, and she brought him around to meet us and discuss help maintaining the garden. A highly skilled gardener and tree man, Des is much in demand and we are pleased he might consider our sad little patch. He’s very interested in the wood and could be a godsend later. First we must finish the cutting down phase and move on to the building back bit.

On two separate days we met more neighbours (remember this means anyone who lives closer than 3 kilometres away). Noreen was walking along the track one afternoon as we came back from town. She was without her little dog Brandy this time but I’m getting a bit better at recalling human names. We had a nice chat and it is very reassuring to have a nurse for a neighbour, especially one so helpful.

Yesterday we met the man who walks Rocky, his friend’s dog – an exception to my name recall at the moment. He was the walker who stopped us early on and asked if I was the “writer lady”. He commented on my bicycle which had been out of the shed for a bit on Wednesday. It transpires he spent 50 years in the bicycle trade and identified (and admired) it immediately.

I’ve just got a stirrup pump for it and should be able to ride it again when the weather clears. Turns out there’s a locking joint in the valves of Dutch bikes and I need to turn this or “’twill never be pumped up, you know”. Well, I do now. No wonder I was popping my shoulders with the little pump.

Also his wife is the woman who makes the jam we love and always get at the Friday markets. A small world, Ireland. We’re starting to make connections with and between people too.

The bins are another story. In fact they are several stories ranging from “Health and Safety!” to “The driver lost his bonus collecting them and won’t come down the lane anymore.” I am hoping to have a little word with the closure department tomorrow and will give the details then. Meanwhile we are hunting for someone – anyone – who will do a rubbish and recycling collection. Keep your fingers crossed for us. It is getting a bit desperate.

And finally a question for those of an ornithological incline. We have another new bird in the garden. In fact it hops along the fence and peers in through the windows, not in the least scared by us. It looks a bit like a wren in body shape and beak but at least 50% larger. It has a sparrow-like back and wings but a black/very dark grey head and a white flash on its throat. There’s a white smudge in its chest and it has a russet belly. The tail can be fanned out and it takes delight in twerking at us a bit like a wagtail. I tried to get a picture but failed miserably.
Has anyone any ideas?

Birds, Boxes and total Bewilderment

One of the most striking things about the house was the number of birds co-habiting our little acreage.  We picked our way past piles of boxes to open the back door and the bird song barely hesitated.  It was February but there were many birds rarely seen in England until spring or summer.  In the first few days I saw Blackbirds, Robins, Great and Blue Tits, Sparrows, Pied Wagtails, and Gold Finches.  And the ever-present Rooks of course.  Suddenly that first morning they all fell silent and I looked out to see what had happened.  Floating over the garden, about twenty feet up, was a large, dark bird of prey.  It circled a couple of times, gave an odd burping sound and drifted off towards the Fairy Fort.

“Buzzard,” said our builder when I asked him.  “Been reintroduced in the last ten years.  You’ll have a couple over there probably.” 

I had a moment of panic.  The thing was huge – beautiful but huge.  Could it maybe attack the dogs?

“No,” he said.  “Would carry off a pup perhaps but a grown dog is a bit too big.”

When I calmed down I looked buzzards up in our bird books.  They have a wing span of up to four feet and are slow and clumsy on take-off, though elegant and graceful once airborne.  A buzzard landing in our garden would struggle to get out again.  Reassured about the dogs, I began to worry about the other birds.  We wanted to put out food and were debating different types of stands or tables.  That would possibly make them handy snacks for a swooping buzzard so we put the idea aside to puzzle over later.

Like the move out, the move in was done in stages with Derek and his Merry Men shifting the bulk of our stuff on the Saturday.  We were saved once again by our friends.  These lovely people formed our “bubble” and set to with a will, opening the kitchen boxes and putting the china away in what cupboards we had ready.  Although we had weeded a lot of possessions there was still a huge amount.  The house – large by Irish standards – is about half the size of our Saltburn property and we were grateful for the “shed”.  All of the pictures and books went in there, still packed.  We focussed on the kitchen, finding bedding and clothes – oh, wonderful clothes!

We had labelled our boxes but the later “packing” done by the movers was rather more random.  In one load I found a black bin-liner full of shredded paper.  China was shoved into boxes barely wrapped.  We had bought mattress bags and sealed up some but those from our beds were not covered at all and needed extensive cleaning.  Some items were wrapped around with brown tape that damaged the surfaces and some were very badly scratched.  As Derek said on the first day – “They just f@@ked it in there”.

Along with the strange items we didn’t want were a lot of omissions.  My lovely writing table was missing, along with half the shelves.  Bottles of wine we labelled to leave for our buyer appeared but an equal number we wanted were gone.  And I’m not sure I fancy the stuff labelled “Wine from back shelving unit and kitchen bowels”.  It was a bit like Christmas – open a box and you didn’t know what you’d find.  There were moments where we stopped and looked around in total bewilderment.  What was all this stuff?  We did find the green boxes from the Pet Crematorium which made me smile – and almost cry with relief. Still, by the end of the day we had a functioning house, somewhere warm to sleep and a safe garden for the dogs. 

It felt as if we had actually arrived.  There was still a huge amount to do and we were still struggling to keep awake at times.  We had no television – not even the seven stations and two in Gaelic – and no internet connection.  We also had no radio signal for some reason.  Despite the fact we’d unpacked just a fraction of the stuff there was a huge pile of boxes to be flattened, stripped of tape and disposed of somehow.  So we waved our wonderful friends off and opened a rare bottle of Cava to go with a simple but delicious meal. 

We had made it.