10 January 2019

2019 / 03

13:30 – 15:30
Dull, grey and still. Thick cloud. 4°C

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Dull January Yews in the east clearfell.

The January Wood is
Dull and listless
Lacking lustre
Lacking light

The January Wood
Stands unmoved

And unmoving
No contrast nor bright

Are the birds respectful or scared?
To sing even the Robin does not dare

Just tinny sounds
Here and there
Top end (badly mixed)
Overhead
Removed –
Not part of this

The January Wood
Waits beneath a heavy sky
Absent melody
Devoid of rhyme

I have walked in from Larpers today, and almost nothing is moving or making any kind of sound. I can hear only the mournful, haunted calls of distant Buzzard and Bullfinch and neither seems part of the wood, but  removed from it. Similarly the jangling Goldfinches overhead. The occasional clatter of a Woodpigeon has the metallic quality of a dustbin lid falling down a staircase.

Otherwise, there is almost an existential quiet, especially here in the ‘middle of the middle’. Off the lane and among the trees is A Place I Do Not Go. It becomes an enclosed space of rooms and corridors, raising questions about the nature of silence and how we understand what that means. Sounds here within become incidental and seem today to be ‘other’, removed somehow. John Cale’s 4’33” composition is brought to mind. The whispers and shufflings of those around and within make their own ‘music’.

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I was drawn within by the brightness of the soft damp grass and the lush verdancy of the lichens and mosses. Luminescent against the otherwise colourless wood

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Standing here, in the cathedral-like atmosphere, one can listen also to Satie’s Vexations – driven by a fascinating and profound ‘boredom’ that is frustrating and mystifying in equal measure. Audaciously, and for the first time in a while, I play the call of Firecrest, just to see what’s out there and add my own notes to the presentation. It takes just a few seconds before one bird responds, and I stop the playback immediately. Instead, I communicate with ‘pishing’ and shortly a second bird appears – an inquisitive male.
They are here, it is just not yet their time…

And not just here, deep within. Half an hour later there is a bird calling loudly beside the track on the south side of the clearfell, in a mixed flock of noisy Blue and Great Tits. And a further half hour beyond that, as I emerge from the Wood onto the footpath at the back and walk east towards the farm, a fourth bird makes its presence likewise known.

There is quite literally nothing in the sky this afternoon. The air is too heavy for flight, and the time of year too languid. The corvids are all behind the farm buildings beyond the manege (riding arena?) and with them a dozen or so Black-headed Gulls, equally disinclined to do anything much.
There is a Dunnock calling from around one of the sheds, and is that the first Robin I have heard today?

But the Ravens are active, which is an absolute blessing. I have superb views of two birds – presumably the adult pair – circling low at the bottom of Lower Velmore. Each is calling to the other gently, and they are engaged in a complex conversation. Fabulous language of grunts, whistles, groans and squeaks. There is nothing like Raven vocabulary. And the silhouettes are textbook – long wings, long body and wedge shaped tail. They are in no hurry, and eventually agree to drift off towards the east out of sight.

Two Roe Deer dart off as I approach, a mother and calf. Presumably the same I saw last weekend still avoiding the stalking gun.

I came without binoculars a week ago, and haven’t needed them since. The light is so poor at present that using bins returns just a bigger silhouette. There is little to see ‘properly’ Even the Firecrests, two of which showed quite well, are inclined to scuttle about in the shadows and in fact don’t really need to be ‘looked at’.

I have added the common bracket fungus Ganoderma applanatum to the Systematic List this afternoon. Several superb specimens on the favoured birch hardwood.

Otherwise just 26 bird species, and two additions to the 2019 yearlist = 36

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