The Wedding Favours

Back in 2015 we were invited to a wedding. It was in late March, and in spite of inclement weather, it was a happy, friendly occasion, with dancing which went on on until well into the night.

The tables for the main meal after the marriage ceremony had been beautifully designed by the bride, and the usual wedding favours – a small gift for each guest as part of the table settings – were the most unusual we’d come across.

A box of gladioli bulbs was there for each guest, along with an indivual “thank you” message. We took our bulbs home, planted them and forgot about them until the summer, when tall green stalks with elongated buds started to appear. Our gladioli were coming up and started to open out.

They’ve appeared each year so far – now in their 5th season – and we’re always pleased to see them as we forget what delicate colours these particular bulbs have. Every year I photograph them and gently tease the groom’s mum with the pics as hers come up, but don’t flower. And I gather that the bride’s don’t flower either…..all I can say is that the secret of our success with these is total neglect!

 

It’s always ourselves we find in the sea

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Last week I went away to the coast for  a couple of nights and returned recharged and refreshed after weeks of lockdown. There were small, simple pleasures, like walking on beaches and seeing seabirds. I wonder, do we appreciate what we already have? Why do we want more when we already have more than enough, if only we take time to enjoy it.

This poem came to mind as I was looking through the photos I took:

 

maggie and milly and molly and may

went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang

so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles, and

milly befriended a stranded star

whose rays five languid fingers were:

and molly was chased by a horrible thing

which raced sideways while blowing bubbles: and

may came home with a smooth round stone

as small as the world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)

it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

e.e.cummings

Beaks and bills

On a recent visit to Martin Mere Wetlands Centre I noticed how many colourful and spectacularly shaped beaks and bills there were on the birds there.

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There is no difference in the meaning of beak or bill, although a sharp hooked end – like those of an eagle for example – might be referred to more often as a beak.

Having taken several photos of beaks and bills, here are a few, which I think/hope I’ve correctly ID’d. Comments are my personal responses and are not very ornithological! You’ll probably be able to work out which is which in the slideshow.

1) Spoonbill – weird and wonderful  – a build in spoon to dig around and find food with

2) Cape Barren Goose – pleasing colour combination of grey and yellow

3) Common Merganser – small pointy beak and stunning punky head

4) Black Swan – dramatic; I remember seeing my first one in Tasmania

5) Flamingo – wow! a large beak like a shovel

6) Red Crested pochard – intense combination of rich colours

Sweet Nothings

 

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This pair of Southern Screamers were spotted billing and cooing like a pair of love birds on a recent visit to Martin Mere Wetland Centre in Lancashire. No social distancing for them, but now the reserve is open again, visitor numbers are limited and you have to book in advance. Once through the entrance and on to the reserve, all is well-managed with plenty of hand washing/sanitising points and comfortable distancing from other visitors.

The Screamers are natives of South America, and have a distinctive screaming call, loud enough to make your hair stand on end. They’re fairly large and turkey-like, with partly webbed feet, hollow bones and air sacs beneath the skin, which would all help in getting them off the ground and being able to stay there once in the air.

They have large, thick legs, light red in colour and just looking at these legs and pondering on them being hollow is – for me at least – quite fascinating. They mate for life and this pair were clearly being sensitive and gentle, interacting as they sat side by side.

I gather there is nothing of note in their plumage to help distinguish between male and female, but my fantasy on seeing them was that the male had the white dog collar (Rev. S. Screamer?) and the female had the fluffy pale grey hairdo.

She also preened and groomed his head, making me wonder if he might be just a tiny bit henpecked…..see the look on his face!

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!).