Monday, February 22, 2010


SnowDrops in the snow Pictures, Images and Photos

It has been a long, hard winter and we are longing for signs of Spring. SAGA has a charming article about snowdrops and where to view them. Link

"The blackbirds and thrushes that had been singing freely previously suddenly ceased singing about December 15, and remained silent for a month, and as suddenly began singing again about January 15. Where they all came from I cannot think, there seemed such an increase in their numbers; one wet morning in a small meadow there were forty-five feeding in sight that could be easily counted. They say the thrushes dig up and eat the roots of the arum, yet they are not root-eaters. Possibly it may have a medicinal effect; the whole plant has very strong properties, and is still much gathered, I suppose for the herbalists. The root is set rather deep, quite a dig with a pocket knife sometimes; one would fancy it was only those which had become accidentally exposed that are eaten by the thrushes. I have never seen them do it, and some further testimony would be acceptable. The old naturalists said the bear on awakening from its winter sleep dug up and ate the roots of the arum in order to open the tube of the intestine which had flattened together during hibernation. The blackbirds are the thrushes' masters, and drive them from any morsel they fancy. There is very little humanity among them: one poor thrush had lost the joint of its leg, and in order to pick up anything had to support itself with one wing like a crutch. This bird was hunted from every spot he chose to alight on; no sooner did he enter the garden than one of the stronger birds flew at him—'so misery is trodden on by many.' There was a drone-fly on a sunny wall on January 20, the commonest of flies in summer, quite a wonder then; the same day a house-sparrow was trying to sing, for they have a song as well as a chirp; on January 22 a tit was sharpening his saw and the gnats were jumping up and down in crowds—this up-and-down motion seems peculiar to them and may-flies. Then the snowdrops flowered and a hive-bee came to them; next the yellow crocus; bees came to these, too, and so eager were they that one bee would visit the same flower five or six times before finally going away. Bees are very eager for water in the early year; you may see them in crowds on the wet mud in ditches; there was a wild bee drowning in a basin of water the other day till I took him out.

Before the end of January the woodbine leaf was out, always the first to come, and never learning that it is too soon; whether the woodbine came over with 'Richard Conqueror' or the Romans, it still imagines itself ten degrees further south, so that some time seems necessary to teach a plant the alphabet. Immediately afterwards down came a north wind and put nature under its thumb for two months; the drone-fly hid himself, the bees went home, everything became shrivelled, dry, inhuman. The local direction of the wind might vary, but it was still the same polar draught, the blood-sucker; for, like a vampire, it sucks the very blood and moisture out of delicate human life, just as it dries up the sap in the branch. While this lasted there were no notes to make, the changes were slower than the hour hand of a clock; still it was interesting to see the tree-climber come every morning at eleven o'clock to the cobble-stone wall and ascend it exactly as he ascends trees, peering into chinks among the moss and the pennywort. He seemed almost as fond of these walls as of his tree trunks. He came regularly at eleven and again at three in the afternoon, and a barn owl went by with a screech every evening a little after eight. The starlings told the time of the year as accurately as the best chronometer at Whitehall. When I saw the last chimney swallow, November 30, they went by to their sleeping-trees about three o'clock in the afternoon—a long night, a short day for them. So they continued till in January the day had grown thirty minutes longer, when they went to roost so much the later; in February, four o'clock; in March, by degrees their time for passing by the window en route drew on to five o'clock. Let the cold be never so great or the sky so clouded, the mysterious influence of the light, as the sun slowly rises higher on the meridian, sinks into the earth like a magic rain. It enters the hardest bark and the rolled-up bud, so firm that its point will prick the finger like a thorn; it stirs beneath the surface of the ground. A magnetism that is not heat, and for which there is no exact name, works out of sight in answer to the sun. Seen or unseen, clouded or not, every day the sun lifts itself an inch higher, and let the north wind shrivel as it may, this invisible potency compels the bud to swell and the flower to be ready in its calyx. Progress goes on in spite of every discouragement. The birch trees reddened all along their slender boughs, and when the sunlight struck aslant, the shining bark shone like gossamer threads wet with dew."

~ Richard Jefferies,

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