Friday, 18 March 2016

Spring Singing with Birds

“Hope is the thing with feathers That perches in the soul And sings the tune without the words And never stops at all.” ― Emily Dickinson

My heart leaps with joy at every sunshine filled morning; the last ecstatic warbles and trills of the returning dawn chorus are drifting through my tightly closed curtains and then, as I realise that once again the sun is shining, suddenly I'm SO HAPPY to be awake! This is in stark contrast to winter mornings, where all things considered, I prefer to be asleep. Spring is springing, hurrah!

If you look among the trees you can see the first small signs arrive as Hawthorn calls forth the green.

Everyone is busy already. I've always wondered what the tapping was in the trees along our lane, It's definitely not a woodpecker, their drumming, hammering peck is much faster than this and far, far louder. They live in the valley below us and two of them are making sweet woodpecker music this spring pretty much non-stop. I digress - I knew it was a small bird repeatedly pecking or banging something but I didn't know what.

I'm pretty sure he's a Nuthatch and what he's banging is a hazel nut.

There are secret words, sacred words, full of love and honouring that I feel on my tongue when the sun comes out, they fill up my mouth and burst out in a morning song of happiness that joins the birds in praising the morning. It had rained so relentlessly for so interminably long that I had forgotten that the sun could ever come out. I had forgotten to remember spring, to hope for spring. This morning it felt as though even the trees were opening their mouths to pour out ecstatic song.

They seemed to be mimicking birds in other ways too... can you see that? It was even more beak and eye like in the flesh.

The Spring Equinox approaches, the year is uncoiling, unwinding itself from the last drips of a wet winter's sleep towards the day when day and night are or equal length and spring, unleashed, gallops forwards towards summer.  We stand in the place between the dark half and the light half of the year, between down and up, between snowdrops and daffodils, the place of both.

Much of the yellow is already out; there have been primroses lifting their delicate yellow faces to the sky since late December, Daffodils and Lesser Celandine since February (not so unusual) and I saw a dandelion today!

Happy Spring Equinox, may your uncoiling and unwinding bring you joy.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

A Gift - Not for Vegetarians.

I was gifted a day...

A day in the company of lovely women and magical birds, or even lovely birds and magical women. Thank you Elen Sentier (above with a Tawny Owl) for the gift and Danielle Earp (below) for being so generous with bird sharing. We were at Dartmoor Hawking, just down the road from here, with Martin Whitely who trains and flies the birds. 

The Hawk above is Agravaine, He's an adult Harris Hawk. The Hawk below is Dave, he's also a Harris Hawk but a young one, hence the stripy feathers. He'll go brown over the coming months. Hawks trained for hawking are raised from a chick in captivity, they are imprinted on their keeper and seem to identify with humans generally as tribe and to like their company. These hawks also include Martin's three dogs in this notion of tribe, as the dogs do them. Enormous pointers bound up to small but potentially vicious birds and snuffle at them in a friendly, waggy sort of a way and leave unscarred. It was incredibly beautiful spending a day with three such disparate species all co-operating happily together. Well, sort of co-operating... 

I happened to mention to Dave that whilst I like Rabbit well enough I really, really like Duck. So dear Dave went after one for me and accidentally fell in the water. Hawks are not designed for swimming. 

When Martin fished him off his soggy perch on a stone by the side of the river he was shivering and miserable. As we started for home it began to snow and he shivered and shook even more, so I opened my jacket and sheltered him inside it, in the warmth of me. He put his head down and snuggled in and I distinctly heard him say that he liked me. I like him too. In fact he's the nicest (only) Hawk I've ever really met. Apparently Elen and Danielle spent much of the day poking each other and laughing at me as I gazed at Dave in blatant adoration. I didn't even notice. 

When we got back to the barn he was blow dried. I missed the photo where his entire expression clearly said 'I luurve being blow dried'. Who wouldn't; when you've fallen in the water on a snowy March day on Dartmoor and you can't change your clothes! 

The rest of the day unfolded in similar vein. Dave saw plenty of Rabbits, he definitely looked straight at them and seemed to say to himself "oh look, there's a rabbit. How dull." Eventually the dogs decided that this was too frustrating for words and killed one themselves. Even when the rabbit was put directly under Dave's beak he couldn't find it interesting. It was incredibly funny for me, but I suspect supremely frustrating for Martin who is trying to train young Dave to be the hunter he was born to be but clearly doesn't need to be as he is fed bits of chicken by passing women who want him to sit on their wrist. 

Rabbit for dinner was delicious, gratitude for all that was in the pot.