Wednesday 22 December 2010

Beautiful Birds (12): Magpie

  • You might enjoy Kanak's post (here) on the Oriental Magpie-Robin, the national bird of Bangladesh

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Seasonal Splash (3): Snow on Snow

The shortest day, and I took this sunset-like photo after lunch at 2.15 pm - a very strange light
One of the Starlings: look at his hooked claw!
The intricacies of ice: hoar frost on a leaf
Starling Roost
Sunrise Colours
Sunrise over Mumbles
Jack Frost Patterns
'Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird . . .' Eleanor Farjeon
Feathery Trees . . .
Wales, a Winter Wonderland
A welcome Song Thrush . . .

The scene from Swansea, looking towards Mumbles, and across the Severn Estuary to the snowy hills of Exmoor

A Chaffinch - we have two who like to sit in this Larch

The poor spider!

Surreal snowbound Swansea! It's rare to have snow on the beach . . .


I hope you like my miscellany of winter scenes on this, the shortest day of the year!

You might enjoy this winter poem by Robert Frost. 

Thursday 9 December 2010

Trees (1): Holly, a seasonal species

'Now the holly bears a berry . . .'
trad. Christmas carol
Christmas draws ever nearer, so I thought I would post a plant that brings seasonal cheer. Holly is evergreen and although I tend to think of it as a bush, we often find holly trees. The berries are usually red, but there are some species that produce yellow ones. It's strange that these berries which provide such desirable nourishment for birds, are not safe for human consumption. It takes a frost or two to mellow the flavour of the berries, apparently.

I had not realized until now that the prickles on the leaves afford two-fold protection for small birds. They provide security during winter storms and also a measure of safety from predators. The Welsh word, 'celyn', which I see on road names around my home, means 'holly'. The botanical name is 'ilex'.

The wood from holly (that sounds less confusing than holly wood!) has been used in the making of 'white' chess pieces. Holly was also used for winter fodder before the agrarian measures introduced by a Norfolk man, Turnip Townshend (and here).

Holly reminds us of Christmas by its very nature, as we know from the words of the carol I used as a caption above. The red berries remind us that Christ came to bring salvation through the shedding of his blood. The prickles are a picture of the crown of thorns.