Buff tailed bumble bee

It’s good to see there are bees in the garden. There are plenty of nectar sources; among these are the pale pink blossoms on the blackberry vine which wends its way along the wall under the kitchen window. Already the petals are dropping as the fruits begin to form.

Bees go for purple flowers and we have quite a lot of these. The lavender, which they are strongly attracted to, is just coming into flower.

As a child I was scared to pass lavender bushes smothered in bees. Now I’ll happily lose time watching the bees at work on them, trying to ID them – usually not doing particularly well so I have to go indoors to refer to the bee chart we have on the wall.

Maybe I need a bee ID book…? (birthday present hint!).

 

There’s life in the old log yet

P1080667

This stump of a freshly felled tree in Anderton Nature Park caught my eye when walking there yesterday. It’s quite sad to see the remains of what must have been quite a large tree – maybe it had become diseased, maybe it was getting dangerous. We did hear the branch of a nearby tree creaking loudly and a bit alarmingly in the wind, as though it might have been loosening, ready to break off. We moved on sharpish!

The path took us through a wood full of past-their-best bluebells. Most of them were shrivelling and going to seed, but a few of the fresher and younger ones still looked magnificent. Right now the ground under the trees is carpeted with ramsens in full bloom, looking like soft white feathers.

The tree stump was surrounded by ramsens, and along with the ferns growing there they formed a wreath of green life, an appropriate memorial for a felled tree.

Cowslips

Cowslips – yes, I remember them. They take me back to the summer of 1966 when I was supposed to be revising for end of year exams at Saffron Walden Teacher Training College. It was sunny and warm, so I went with a group of friends to revise in the sun at the bottom of the sportsfield.

The song around at the time was Lazing on a Sunny Afternoon by The Kinks. That’s what we started singing when we’d had enough of the revision, then some of us got over or through the boundary hedge and made our way along the adjacent disused railway line for a delightful ramble in the countryside.

The railways had undergone severe cuts in the 1960s, thanks to Dr. Beeching, and there had once been a station in Saffron Walden. I don’t recall finding that but do remember the large number of wild flowers growing amongst the disused tracks. One of these was cowslips, and it’s the first time I remember looking at a wild flower that I’d only seen before as a picture in a book and recognising it.

Of course, I picked some – we all did – and we took them back to our rooms in college and put them in water in a glass or coffee mug, feeling slightly guilty because we knew you were not supposed to pick wild flowers.

I also remember the delicious feeling of trespassing on railway property – there were “No Tresspassers” signs up –  but we didn’t care. There was no-one about, it was warm and sunny, we needed that break from revision and we felt we could do pretty much anything!

The name Cowslip may originate from cowsdung, as this flower grows in boggy or wet ground. Cow’s dung and the word “slip” offer quite a graphic descriptive name!

A day of birds and beasts

P1080567

Wetlands and Spanish Moss on trees, Brazos Bend State Park

Following our truncated stay and hasty departure from our visit to family in Houston ( to get back before all planes stopped flying, no other reason!) I’ve finally got around to looking at the photos I took there. So distracting and disorientating is this period of lockdown (what day is it…?) I’d forgotten about our family day out at Brazos Bend State Park and what we’d seen there.

It’s one of our “must go to” places when in Houston, so before our departure we had a family day together and enjoyed a walk around these wetlands. They are alligator- inhabited, a bit of a birder’s paradise, and they always delight us. We’ve seen roseate spoonbills, ibis, blue herons, bitterns catching fish just feet away from us, red-winged blackbirds and alligators basking on the banks.

Trees are festooned with Spanish Moss, noisy American coots hoot and squawk, anhingas (cormorant-like) sit with wings spread in the sunshine and large dark blue butterflies make their presence felt as their wings brush by.

P1080543There’s always something new to see, and this time it was the large brown furry creature in the marshy area, which some of our party thought was a beaver, some thought was a coypu, and some some just didn’t know. It’s taken me a while to get round to the ID job, and I had to check it out and do a spot of research too. It’s a nutria, which I’d not heard of before, but they’re quite common, are similar to beavers and are related to coypu, which are found in Europe. It’s the size and tail which give the answer – large body, rat-like tail. Beaver tails are flattened.

One down, one to go. What was that unusual bird with an orange and black head I saw lurking in the undergrowth? I took a few shots very quickly and managed to get enough for an ID. But what was it? I’d seen something like it before but couldn’t remember where.

P1080546Lockdown days offer more time to browse photographs. This bird looked vaguely familiar, so I tried a long shot and looked at photos I’d taken in Costa Rica, and there it was – a Crested Caracara. I’d seen one there. They’re listed as being seen in Texas, and specifically at Brazos Bend. It was quite  thrill to see this large bird – and not only that, on the way to Brazos by I spotted a male Hen Harrier (called a Northern Harrier in the US) flying low over a field.

This was probably the most significant sighting of the day for me. Hen Harriers are persecuted and endangered in the UK, and although I’ve been fortunate enough to see both male and female of this species on the wing in the UK, they still give me goosebumps on my neck when I do.

Written in the stars?

Featured Image -- 4086With my astrological psychology hat on, I’m pondering on our current global situation. Most countries  are in lockdown in an effort to stop the spread of the coronvirus – Covid-19 – which is dominating our lives. The pandemic has halted everyday life. People are dying. We’re in uncharted waters while a vaccine is being sought; life is on pause and hold as far as the everyday activities we’ve grown so accustomed to are concerned.

Here in the UK we’re told to stay at home, work from home, don’t socialise or go out unless you’re getting shopping, and then only a few people at a time in the shop please, each keeping 2 metres apart. Children are being schooled at home by parents who are trying to work from home; the  schools closed a few weeks ago, and while it’s OK to go for a walk or take some kind of exercise, this must be done in the locality – there’s no driving off into the countryside allowed. Oh yes – frequent handwashing is essential to kill the virus. Lather up for at least 20 seconds.

If we’d been told we’d be living like this just a few weeks ago, most of us would have thought it was a joke. But it’s not and although I can’t pretend I saw it coming, I did know – from an astrological viewpoint –  that we were likely to face considerable challenges and changes all the way up to 2024 as the planet Pluto made its way through the sign of Capricorn. I wrote about this in November 2017, and you can read my thoughts here,  about this great unravelling which had already begun back in 2009.

For non-astrologers and sceptics (1) I’ll try to put my ideas and take on the current situation into a context you can understand, using non-astrological language. So I ask you to imagine a large and impressive building – maybe iconic like the United Nations HQ in New York City, or the offices of a powerful global institution. It’s a place where a lot of different but interconnected businesses, organisations, charities, churches, banks, non-governmental groups and long-founded, traditional establishments gather under one roof. The building is called Capricorn House, it’s architecturally solid and sound, rather plush, and it is imbued with Tradition with a capital T.

In 2009, a newcomer arrives, takes a long hard look at what goes on there, assesses that things are looking out of kilter because there seems to be a whole load of inequality about in the world. Not only that, the environment is taking the hits and the way things are being run, by businesses of all kinds, is destroying our world – not just for us but for furture generations. The newcomer, not unlike the Stranger in Clint Eastwood’s film High Plains Drifter, sets about levelling the playing field. He has considerable power and it’s not long before the cracks appear and the walls of safety surrounding more dubious organisations and businesses start to crumble and fall. The stranger is called Pluto and yes, he has powers alright, but he can use them to right wrongs and injustices and inequalities. The old, outworn, outdated, irrelevant-to-current-times practices take the hits. Pluto likes nothing better than a good clear out and a fresh start, and that’s what the world starts to get.

Some of the effects of this are painful for us on a personal, everyday life level, so of course, humanity tries to resist. But Pluto is an energy/entity on a mission and he’s got plenty of time; he will stay on this job until 2024, and in 2020 we’re at last starting to wake up to the fact that things have to change. Coronavirus has woken us all up to that, and strangely has brought us closer together as we realise what is important in life. And it’s not “stuff” and possessions, it’s people and our environment and the way we’re living.

But that’s not the end of it. In January 2018, another visitor arrived in Capricorn House. It was Saturn, a rather rigid, go-by-the-book kind of entity whose forte in life is systems, organisation, structure, and interestingly, the physical body. You’d expect Saturn to be in his element in Capricorn House, with all those traditional, long-founded organisations there (Saturn really doesn’t like change) but it wasn’t long before he bumped into Pluto, who proceeded to bend his ear about all the changes that were needed to the current systems and way of running things, otherwise there wouldn’t be anything much to run at all.

This was aided and abetted by Uranus, who had been messaging Pluto repeatedly since 2011, putting in his two penn’rth from his temporary offices in both Aries and Taurus Towers on the same campus, and adding a bit of global revolutionary spice to what Pluto was doing with the more general clear out.

In December 2019, Jupiter arrived in Carpricorn House, found Pluto and Saturn were already there at work, and as I write, is locked even now in close cahoots with Pluto to offer the opportunity of bringing some vision and long term planning to what our world and our society could be like. Jupiter sees the big picture, of how the future might be, and comes to share wisdom and experience before moving on in December 2020. That gives us a year – maybe to find a vaccine for Covid-19 – and to find new ways as our perceptions and priorities change.

Saturn, meanwhile, has scarpered and left Capricorn House to take up temporary residence in Aquarius Hall, where the techies live and work and the egg heads and boffins hang out. Saturn will return to Capricorn House for a while during 2020, but will then settle in at Aquarius Hall for the long haul, possibly while new systems, which include ways of communicating and working on line, maybe at home, are perfected, and yes, by then, a vaccine might have been found by the scientists and techies.

The astrological bit

This is my take on what effects on humanity the outer, transpersonal planets Uranus and Pluto are currently having.  Jupiter and Saturn are not outer planets, and are more personal, Saturn being appropriately on the boundary (a Saturnian word – Saturn likes boundaries) between the inner and outer planets in the solar system.

Here are links to short videos on my YouTube channel explaining the meaning and qualities associated with Pluto and Uranus, and the revolutionary spirit of Uranus.

(1) Please don’t poo-pooh any of this unless you have something useful to say and have studied astrology yourself; I’ve studied it for 36 years. Just saying.