No Fly Zone

November 1, 2011

It’s a good thing I never do encounter much traffic on my ride to the papershop, I realised today as I veered all the way across the road, distracted by the sight of three crows taking on a rather grumpy looking buzzard. Back on the straight (well, straightish) and narrow, I then cycled through a flock of rooks who had been spooked by a couple of fighter jets careening over the hills and pedalled on openmouthed, watching the feathered and the non-feathered aerobatics over my head. Birdwatching and bicycles, what could be a better combination?

Of course, that was before I realised I was under aerial bombardment (from the crows, not the jets). Even on a rare fine and sunny November morning, perhaps an umbrella is necessary on the bicycle after all…

Meanwhile, Far Away from All the Rioting…

August 9, 2011

Sitting on the bench this morning, enjoying our brief two-day respite between severe weather warnings* we noticed that the front yard was more than usually full of flying swallows – clearly the second brood have fledged and we are once more at swallowmax for the year.

We’re always amazed at the skill of the adults as they swoop around the courtyard, and especially the way they zip in and out the gap at the top of the window into their shed without either slowing down or colliding with a bird going the other way. We realised today that this nonchalance isn’t innate – it takes a little practice. There was one who had three or four goes at getting through the window and each time stopped and more or less hovered in mid air before going round for another shot. In the end it landed on the gutter instead and stood there pretending that was what it meant to do all along while we laughed at it from the bench. It’s hard to believe that a bird that can practically fly backwards can’t make it through that gap but I suppose like everything else, it’s all about confidence.

I’m not sure how long it will be before they’re swooping in through the gap after their parents as though to the manner born. They’ve already started practising their mad dashing arial chases that had the cat ducking for cover under the car – not to mention their fly-by crapping bombing runs. We’ve been enjoying the show but – spectacular as it is – not watching them open mouthed. And keeping our hands over our coffee cups just in case.

* I know this will come back to bite me, but I really cannot take a weather advisory for heavy rain with the seriousness it probably deserves

Firing Line

April 8, 2011

As I announed (appropriately enough) on twitter yesterday – the first swallows have been spotted in the courtyard, twittering away. Which is marvellous, of course, especially as they seem to have brought the weather with them (the Weatherman was wearing his sunglasses this morning and it’s now officially warmer outside the house than inside). But there is a slight downside. The bench has been carefully positioned to maximise the amount of time it spends in the sun – dead centre along the length of a south facing wall. But it was only once the swallows came back and perched themselves on their favourite wire that we thought to look up and realised that the bench is directly underneath it.

Looks like we’re going to have to add a parasol for our protection. Or should that be a parapoo?

This Time it’s Personal

July 13, 2009

bird_poo‘You know, those birds aren’t sitting on the wire and crapping on the car,’ the other half said.

‘No?’ I asked, a little sceptical.

‘No,’ he said. ‘They’re flying about three feet over the car, slowing right down to just above stalling speed, taking careful aim…

‘And then they’re crapping on the car.’

Looking on the Bright Side…

June 30, 2008

…The steady light rain that starts whenever we head out for a walk does at least keep off the worst of the flies. We have yet to encounter the dreaded midge – a beast that looms as large as some mythical monster whenever this part of Scotland is discussed – but the flies seem irritating enough, at least to us newbies. They seem attracted to walkers and gather over our heads in columns as we go, so that from a distance we must have the appearance of being trailed by a pillar of smoke, like the Israelites in the desert, only without the sunshine. When it is not raining, I try and cultivate a stoical indifference to the flies – teeth clenching is good for the jaw line after all – while the other half opts for a maddened hand waving, which presumably tones the upper arms. Either way, I’m disappointed that the presence of such an abundance of insect life in our vicinity does not mean that we are also trailed by swallows, swifts, martins and flycatchers who are all surely missing a trick here. If rhinos can have oxpeckers, and even crocodiles their own personal toothcleaning avian companion, why cannot walkers attract a companion bird or two to keep them insect free? I’d even put up with the poo.

Party Pooper

June 15, 2008

Now that we have a washing machine, we can finally start drying our clothes outside on our lovely rural-issue clothesline. We couldn’t do this in London because a) our back garden was about the size of an egg box and b) diesel particulates are not exactly my favourite post-laundry fabric conditioner. But now we can enjoy the sight of our freshly laundered clothes blowing rurally in the breeze without having the bathroom and every single radiator in the house taken up with drying underwear. And we can finally air-dry sheets and duvet covers, without having to lug them down to the laundrette to emit their weight in CO2 as they tumble-dried. I tell you, if you look carefully you can see my smug green glow from London

But there are a few little refinements we’re having to learn in order to perfect our new laundry regime. Like listening to the weather forecast before putting on a load AND paying attention all the way to the part where it gets to Scotland without getting distracted trying to visualise a line drawn from the Severn to the Wash. And like looking out of the window and not thinking ‘oh look it’s raining,’ but learning to launch oneself out of the house like a jet-propelled laundry-rescuing rocket before it ends up wetter than it started. And – as we learned just this afternoon – not hanging the white sheet right up close next to the bird feeder at the end of the clothes line. Laundry flapping brightly in the breeze might be a delight to my senses, but it seems it scares the crap out of the birds…