Sunday, 10 March 2013

March Winds Doth Blow

Springtime is the land awakening … March winds are it’s morning yawn…

~Lew Grizzard~

March was a month of celebrations. St. David’s Day fell on the first day of the month. It was the day to celebrate Wales and all things Welsh. I wore my daffodil pin with pride and sent e-mails to my friends in Wales in WELSH !!! What I can remember that is :-0. It was the custom to wear either a leek or a daffodil which were Wales national emblems and for young girls to wear the national costumes. As for wearing leeks, I just found out that it was to celebrate winning a battle against the Saxons.

Brandon Marsh D7000 X14  10-03-2013 13-54-029According to legends, St. David ordered his soldiers to identify themselves by wearing leeks on their helmets in an ancient battle against the Saxons that took place in a leek field. In Henry V, Shakespeare referred to wearing one as an "ancient tradition", and in the same play Henry tells Fluellen he was wearing a leek, "for I am Welsh, you know, good countryman". We’d cawl cennin for dinner which was just delicious.  This simply meant leek soup or broth in Welsh with loads of leeks and off course with a piece of sweet Welsh lamb.

It was election time at the university. Posters were tied, stapled, taped and flapping everywhere. What a mess. Just look at the bridge across library road. Even bed-sheets were used.  The candidates were seeking students' votes to decide who'll be running Warwick SU during the 2013-14 academic year. The Students' Union Officers do make a significant impact on the student experience. The more students voted, the stronger the Students' Union's voice will be in representing students. Warwick University D3100  27-02-2013 13-16-12

I was on my usual lunch break walk by the lake when I was assaulted by a series of high-pitch tseee calls that ended in a flourish. It was one of the rare day when the sun was out but it was quite dark under the trees. I stood still, looked up and saw something darting in and out of the tree. It was so tiny, like a wren but behaving like a tree creeper, dancing up and down the tree. sometimes hanging upside down. I managed to get a few shots and this was the best I managed.Warwick University D3100  05-03-2013 13-45-48

I showed it to Babe and after downloading the photographs, he identified it as a Gold-crest from its bright yellow crown. Woop..woop…my first sighting in the university grounds. Babe took this lovely photograph when he was in Brandon Marsh. 

Brandon Marsh D800 DX X14  17-01-2013 14-44-039

When my hand closed upon thee, worn and spent
With idly dashing on the window-pane,
Or clinging to the cornice -- I, that meant
At once to free thee, could not but detain;
I dropt my pen, I left th' unfinished lay,
To give thee back to freedom; but I took --
Oh, charm of sweet occasion! -- one brief look
At thy bright eyes and innocent dismay;
My lesson learnt -- thy beauty got by heart:
And if, at times, my sonnet-muse would rest
Short of her topmost skill, her little best,
The memory of thy delicate gold crest
Shall plead for one last touch, -- the crown of Art.

~Charles Tennyson Turner ~

On World Book Day, my book-club discussed and dissected Swimming Home by Deborah Levy, which was shortlisted for the 2012 Man Booker Prize. The short novel was about the experiences of poet Joe Jacobs (Polish emigre Josef Nowogrodzki), when his family vacation in the south of France  was interrupted by a fanatic reader, Kitty Finch. His wife Isabel was a foreign correspondent who “recorded and witnessed catastrophes to try and make people remember” while Joe “tried to make himself forget”. She and Joe were troubled in their marriage and Kitty was “a window waiting to be climbed through” for both of them.

Swimming Home was Kitty’s poem and she wanted Joe to read it. She had come off Seroxat which Joe had received for his own depression. 14 year old Nina, Joe’s and Isabel’s daughter, was the only one who dared to address Kitty’s mental problems. Towards the end, it looked as if she was poised to kill herself. But it turned out to be Joe. Kitty’s mental issue were just a reflection of its more deep-founded depression. What a twist. I really enjoyed reading the book. Profound and thrilling, Swimming Home revealed how the most devastating secrets were the ones we kept from ourselves.

When I close a book

I open life

I hear

faltering cries

among harbours

~Pablo Nerudo, Ode to the Book~     

Due to time constraints, I wasn’t able to attend any of the activities and programmes for International Women’s Day. What I hoped and prayed was for women to be treated equally. Various events had shown beyond doubt that there were gender inequality issues the world over that desperately need to be dealt with. Most recently, the Pussy Riot’s various trials and tribulations in Russia, the brutal gang rape of a 23 year-old medical student on a bus in New Delhi, or the spectacular polemic launched by Australian Prime Minister, Julian Gillard, against Tony Abbott MP for apparent sexism. It was clear that gender discrimination issues were pervasive in even the Western society.

 The story of women's struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights"

~Gloria Steinem~

Mother’s Day came early and fell on the second Sunday in March. It was confusing for me because in Malaysia it was the second Sunday in May. I always bought 2 cards. One was for my mother-in-law and the other for my mother. Trying to get a Mother’s Day card here in the UK in May was virtually impossible. Hugs and kisses to both mothers, and a very Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers who were celebrating. I hoped it was the best one ever.

After calling my parents, we wrapped up warm and headed for our favourite playground. We were thrilled to see this Kestrel welcoming us as we drove into the car-park. Babe managed to park safely and rattled off a few shots. Then we trudged along the muddy path. We checked out all the hides and it was virtually empty except for a few hardy Gulls, Shovelers, Cormorants and Lapwings. Where had the natives gone??? It was also pointless for us to stay with the wind and rain hammering through the flaps.Brandon Marsh D800 X4 DX  01-03-2013 14-26-28

We turned back and walked to Wright Hide because one of the twitchers had told us that he’d spotted the Green Wing teal there. It was also snowing slightly and the wind was so strong that the snow was coming down horizontally. We couldn’t wait to get into the hide. We opened the flap very slowly and there it was, our elusive teal. It was quite hard to spot because it always had its head down, dabbling in the mud. Babe also spotted a Yellow-legged Gull and 3 Common Snipes flew in later. We’d to leave ASAP because it was freezing.

Brandon Marsh D7000 X14  10-03-2013 15-31-51 (Green wing teal is on the right)

On Sunday, we made another trip to Slimbridge WWT keeping our finger-crossed that the weather will hold-on. As usual, more road-works on the M6 but we still arrived in one piece and on time. We were surprised to see the car-park quite full because it was freezing and drifts of snow were scattered here and there. Flocks of Redpolls and Goldfinches greeted us at the car-park but this handsome Song Thrush caught my attention.Slimbridge WWT D50  03-03-2013 12-06-26

There must be an exhibition going on because the downstairs foyer was buzzing. We quickly made our way out and walked straight to Zeiss Hide because the Bittern had been very obliging the past few days. We saw a notice that the adorable Nenes weren’t out and about because most of them were nesting. Woo… couldn’t wait to see the fluffy chicks again. Outside Zeiss Hide, we saw large drifts of snowdrops and the heavenly smell of wild garlic. What a potent combination. Jackdaws were making a racket on the tree-tops. We made ourselves comfortable and waited and waited and waited. It seemed we’d missed the Bittern by an hour. Sheesh…Slimbridge WWT D300s X14  03-03-2013 12-34-48

A pair of Oystercatchers flew in and started feeding on the fields below us. A Peregrine scattered the birds on the river-banks and a Sparrowhawk did a flypast in front of the hide. The pool was filled with Teals and Wigeons. A Water rail darting in and out of the reed-bed kept the birdwatchers and photographers occupied. But we were more entertained by this cute wren who came out to see what the fuss was all about.Slimbridge WWT D300s X14  03-03-2013 12-51-29

We couldn’t wait for the Bittern because we wanted to check the other hides before the weather turned for the worse. We walked past ponds full of Smews, Eiders, Golden-eyes, Pochards, Tufted Ducks, Shelducks and Goosanders. Most of them were  displaying to each other. They will be mating soon. More fluffy chicks to come. When we came to the Caribbean Flamingos enclosure, they were empty. That was strange. As we crossed the bridge towards the hides, we noticed a group of people lingering about. I asked what were they looking at and was told a water rat!!! Huh… I managed to spot it and Babe said that it was a water vole. Our first sighting in Slimbridge.Slimbridge WWT D50  03-03-2013 14-31-13

We checked out the empty Martin Smith Hide overlooking the Tack piece. Hundreds of Pintails, Shelducks, Teals, whistling Wigeons, dabbling Galdwall and Bewick’s Swans were chilling out. Frisky and territorial Moorhens and Coots were chasing each other in the lakes.  According to the information board, all the 270 Bewick’s Swans were still in the reserve. They will be flying off to their Siberian breeding grounds soon. Have a safe journey and see you in a couple of months.Slimbridge WWT D300s X14  03-03-2013 14-33-060

I think the hides were empty because most of the action will be at Holden Tower which we were going to give it a miss. As we continued walking, we were serenaded by lovely bird songs. The birds were tweeting a little louder as the day got a little brighter. We proceeded to the newly-built nameless Hide. Oh my gosh…there was a party going on. I was grinning from ear-to ear. A female Reed Bunting was sitting on the wooden post oblivious to the chaos. Numerous feeders were hanging all over the place. Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Long-tail tits, Robins, Great Tits, Blue Tits and Dunnocks were taking turns to feed. In fact they were squabbling. And I just love this adorable Long-tail tit.

Slimbridge WWT D300s X14  03-03-2013 14-55-44

But our highlight was when this normally elusive and secretive Water rail came out and started feeding in the open. Check out the long red bill, impressively barred flanks and coupled with an actively jerking tail. It was comical when suddenly it flutterrd off into the undergrowth with its trailing legs. The lateral compression allowed them to stalk through the reed-beds. The hide began to fill up suddenly.Slimbridge WWT D300s X14  03-03-2013 14-48-035 We left and walked back to the car for something to warm our cockles. We’d sandwiches and washed down with hot coffee from the thermos. Aaah…bliss. After recharging our batteries, we went back again. This time we headed to the South Hide where Lapwings, Greylags and Oystercatchers were in attendance. The Godwits have gone, most probably feeding by the estuary. We made a pit stop at Wader Shore before deciding to head home. As we walked out, this lovebirds caught our attention.  Slimbridge WWT D50  03-03-2013 14-16-37 March flew in with promises to blow away the winter cobwebs.

“The March wind roars

Like a lion in the sky,

And makes us shiver

as he passes by.

When the winds are soft

And the days are warm and clear,

Just like a gentle lamb,

Then spring is here”.


But I think we need to wait a little bit longer. Whatever the weather, I want to wish the 2 most important women in my life, my Emak and sister, a very Happy Birthday. May Allah bless our family always.

Brandon Marsh D3100  02-03-2013 14-24-39

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