Sunday, 27 February 2011

In The Chilly Hours and Minutes.......

Yesterday evening, just as dusk descended, I set off up to our neighbour's milking parlour for......milk!  We always buy our milk from Monica. It is straight from the cow, unpasturised and untouched, the way it used to be when I was a lad.  On the way back home, I looked up and there was a huge shape slowly but  purposefully powering its way  over the village, heading for the far reaches of the forest to the South. Though impossible to identify in the gloaming light and at great height, it was certainly either an Eagle Owl or a Great Grey Owl. There's nothing else around at this time of year, save for a pair of Golden Eagles who have their territory a few miles off - and it definitely was not one of those - or a Capercaillie - which again, I'm sure it was not -  that is so huge. Although there is probably a way of telling their flight patterns apart, I don't know it. So, that's as much as I can say. It was a pleasant end to what had turned out to be an unexpectedly mild, Spring-like day.

Later still, at just after 20:00,  Foxxy came by and snaffled his supper.  By that time it was about -4 (incredibly mild for that time of night) and the eves were still dripping steadily. Håkan's Elkhound, Birk, was going bonkers, straining at his tether and barking wildly at the Fox's intrusion. Foxxy knows he is safe, as he has been known to skirt around Birk, keeping just out of his reach all the while, according to Monica.

I had to buy a bit more sunflower seed for the feeders yesterday. Last year the price of this stuff rocketed in Sweden allegedly because the French crop had failed badly - according to the Swedish farming press! We were down in SW France - a major sunflower growing region, at the time, and certainly didn't notice or hear of any disastrous crop failures. So it was probably the usual explanation that prevailed: 'tis no coincidence that Swede and greed rhyme, as I often say.

Normally we feed all through winter and well  into Spring  - the ground remains hard as iron here for so long - and therefore have a superb variety of birds visit the garden. Especially once the northern Spring migrating species reach us. We have Nuthatches, Bramblings, White Wagtails,  Yellow Wagtails, Crossbills, Rosefinches, Greenfinches, Chaffinches, Fieldfares (most striking in summer plumage - with raucous voice), Redwings, Yellow Buntings, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Curlew, Canada Geese and Crane - all in the garden itself, though not all simultaneously. In autumn, on the reverse run, we usually have flocks of 100-plus of Waxwings, delightfully coloured, plumpish, school-masterly looking birds that strip the remaining berries from trees and bushes before continuing South.

Anyone who uses bird-feeders will also be familiar with the ingenuity and persistence of the squirrel.  Although generally classed as 'rodents', I have a sneaking admiration for these cheeky, clever characters. They don't cause us any real problems - apart from when they ate their way through our old plastic feeders to get at the contents - and are frequently entertaining.  They are also undeniably cute. We have one in particular who seems to miss out on much of his winter hibernation beauty sleep, preferring to stock up on the bird-feed. He gets decidedly tetchy when approached, clucking and 'tutting' at us, but only retreating when we can virtually pick him up, at which point he clambers into a tree and clucks even more irritatedly and noisily. He's really a delight to have around and we don't grudge him a thing!:

                                                       Here he is, in his dowdy winter coat.

This morning Charlie gave me a nudge at 04:30 and, gettting a limited response, fortunately and a bit to my surprise, curled up on the duvet and went off to sleep. I followed his example until he stretched and breeped loudly at almost 08:00, clearly signalling a start to the day.  I was up and dressed, heading for the door  before Jack even noticed the action. The thermometer was reading -1.  Almost Spring-like temp for this time of year. Where the eves had been dripping there are now icicles hanging and rippled-effect, glistening pools of ice below on the ground.

A trio of Great Spotted Woodies were sharing the feeders with a sole Nuthatch - the latter are very bold at times and I was able to get up very close to it to replenish the  feeders before it looked at me with its striped eye and a gesture of annoyance and flew up into the higher branches. The Woodies were evidently engaged in normal birdy Spring behaviour, two of them jousting for a mate by the look of things.  The 'mate', so to speak, subject of their desires,  carried on gorging itself and ignored the others - too sensible to be a bloke!

I must finish off packing, as far as I can, in readiness for the move South. I wander around looking at things aiming to deal with them but largely unable to see how to or know what's best. There's just so much stuff to be considered. I reckon I've cracked the back of it but there's still a bit to finish off, and only a day or two left to complete it! I hope this is our last move - it's just too much effort nowadays! Although, we'll have to come back up to Sweden at a later date to collect/move the remainder of the stuff - and the books!!  They are the biggest problem in many ways: they are heavy, cumbersome, numerous - and still expanding (I blame Amazon really) - cannot be compressed and take up an inordinate amount of space in a removal wagon. But that's not for a while, so, for now, I will try to forget them!

J's flight has landed, so she's in Sweden. Unfortunately however she flew with Ryanair today, so is a long way from home. Ryanair's version of 'Stockholm' in this case 'Skavsta' is in reality the coastal town of Nyköping, a fair way - an hour at least - from the capital of the country. She will travel by train to Stockholm central, change trains for Sundsvall, a pleasant, university town on the coast, but will not arrive there until 20:12. I have a 2.5 hour drive to collect her, followed by the same return journey time. Her journey time is therefore 14 hours long. France will be a much better option, much more accessible - with more transit options available.

I must cut a bit more wood to tide us over till we leave,  and prepare for her return. So that's enough from me today. Anyway, it's Sunday!


  1. Bird Heaven!!
    What colour are your squirrels? Are they related to the squirrels native here or to the grey?

    I seem to remember friends in France complaining aboiut Ryanair...nothings new!!

  2. Hi gz: Ryanair is the pits - Big Pit, Blaenavon, has nothing on them!

    We have Reds up here. This one is looking a bit frumpy in his dowdy winter coat - altogether a different kettle of fish in summer. But he does have character!