Hearing unforecasted rain hitting the tarmac the other evening, I ventured outside anyway, having been looking forward to a nightwalk. Beyond the sound-proofing of the door the noise was cacophanous and I almost retreated back inside. But, belatedly, I noted the absence of moisture in the air and, slowly, realised that what I had assumed to be the patter of raindrops was in fact the flutter of a thousand leaves being blown up the drive. Venturing further out, I spent a pleasant but futile few minutes trying to catch some, before settling for scooping up a handful from the floor. They were unlike any leaf I had ever seen and it has taken me a week of stolen minutes with the markontour “library” to derive their origin, such is my city-boy lack of basic wildlife knowledge. But it has been fun learning and, in the end, it turned out that buried deep in my brain was my Mum introducing me to the parent-tree as a boy.
Our neighbourhood cuckoo returned on 16 April and has been rewarding us with his song ever since, which reminded me of a blog post Ms Markontour wrote last year about Britain’s naughtiest bird which I never got around to publishing. One of the upsides of lockdown is having time to be in one place and appreciate the changing of the seasons, so it was lovely to read this again today and I hope you enjoy it too.
Yesterday at Ty Cerrig we celebrated the return of the House martins. Not the reforming of Hull’s finest indie band, but the arrival of the little blue-backed, white-fronted birds that live in our eaves from spring to late summer.
As we enter a third week of lock-down in Britain, markontour’s isolation playlist is growing nicely, now topped up by some wonderful on-line live sessions, Jarvis dj-ing from his living room, and the daily pleasure of Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin’s ‘Nature Livestreams’. The whole playlist is available here.
We’re doing a daily bird-watching hour as part of our family coronavirus WhatsApp group. Obviously there’s quite a big risk of repetition of sightings of sparrows, or the Groundhog Day magpie who learns anew each morning that it can’t hang onto the fat ball feeder long enough to get a bite in, so I was dead pleased yesterday to see a lark rising vertically up into the blue sky from the moorlands on the ascent of Tor y Foel (social distancing of at least 200m from the four other people I saw also out for a bit of exercise).
This week, courtesy of dark skies, clean air, and panoramic views from our Welsh hideaway, markontour saw the planet Mercury for the first time, and it was magnificent!
On the top floor of a Tudor hunting lodge at the edge of Epping Forest, something both strange and enlightening happened this weekend. “On All Hallows Eve, when the veil between the living and dead is at its thinnest” Becoming the Forest, and installation by Norwegian artist, Una Hamilton Helle, invited visitors to “take part in an audio journey celebrating the oncoming winter, populated by the voices of forest dwellers past and present, including the trees themselves.”