Monday, January 26, 2009

A bright Monday luncthime

I took advantage of a slow-news day for the Egyptology News blog and escaped early over the road. The weekend was wet and grey but yesterday was quite bright, with the occasional ray of sunshine breaking through the thin slivery clouds.

The main sense of the place was the intense dampness that is the legacy of days of rain. The state of my trainers has to be seen to be believed - wellington boots would have been a better option had I owned a pair!

Pools of water have gathered in places where ponds were originally planned by the LDDC before the fall in the water table. When I reached the second of the two Downtown ponds I found that it was overflowing into the Russia Dock channel, with a small trickle making its way a little distance down the channel. The permanent ponds themselves were all full and look much the better for it. One of the prettier effects of all the rain was a vision of droplets everywhere I looked, hanging like tiny perfect crystal droplets in the bright light.

The bird life was really quite vocal today. A blue tit was in full voice as I arrived, a male robin was giving it his all high in a tree next to the green, and over at the Downtown Pond the most staggering noise was emitting from waist-level. Closer inspection revealed a wren. I had no idea that they made that type of sound but a later perusal of Simon Barnes's "A Bad Birdwatcher's Companion" revealed that the sheer volume is the most conspicuous aspect of this tiny bird with the upturned tail. It was impossible to photograph the wren as it moved so quickly in and out of the shrubbery. I have a set of furry photographs of indistinct brown bits of shrubbery for my efforts, and in the end abandoned the attempt to capture the wren on camera and just enjoyed watching and listening. Another noisy member of the avian choir was a woodpecker who was contributing serious percussion and was audible from a long distance away. But even when I was obviously quite close, having followed the sound, it remained quite invisible. Blackbirds and pigeons were around but there were much fewer pigeons than usual.

Squirrels have started braving the woodland again in greater numbers, but there was no sign of insect life, and I saw no foxes.

It is nice to see flowers appearing and trees coming into bud. Some of the autumn rose hips and berries persever, but they are very lone survivors. Even patches of bulbs are beginning to show their perky upright leaves, with plants in one clump coming bravely into bud. Nearly everything is covered in moss and lichen - patches of grass, fallen logs and even a lamp-post.

The park and woodland are in a true state of flux, a transitional state from bedding down for one season to reviving for the next. The faint echoes of autumn accompanied by the slight, fugitive hints of spring, give more of a sense of the seasonal cycle than any of the seasons in all their full-blown glory.

It seemed like a good idea to finish the walk with a quick pint at the Moby where I chatted to Jill, who was working the bar, and sat and revised my hieroglyph flash cards.

Water flowing over the step from Downtown Pond into the Russia Dock channel

Red Dead-nettle
Lamium purpureum

Lamium from Greek laimos (the throat) referring to the shape of the flowers
A member of the mint family. Does not sting.

No comments: