Monday, 1 February 2016

February in Somerset: Woeful and Joyful


"This is still, essentially, a landscape dominated by water in all its forms, eloquently described by local poet William Diaper, writing soon after the Great Storm of 1703:

'Eternal mists their dropping curse distill
And drizzly vapours all the ditches fill:
The swamp land's a bog, the fields are seas
And too much moisture is the grand disease.'

……..

Further along the rhyne I notice two smaller birds, diving down into the murky water, then bobbing up again like animated corks.  Even tinier than a moorhen or teal, these are our smallest waterbird, the little grebe or dabchick.

Dabchicks, as their name suggests, look rather like the offspring of a duck or moorhen; so tiny you cannot believe they are indeed full-grown. At this time of year they are greyish-brown with a fluffy white rear-end. But in a month or so they will moult into their handsome breeding garb: richer and darker, with a deep chestnut-brown neck, and the tiniest lime-green spot behind their bill, as if someone has daubed on a dash of luminous paint.  This is a colour rarely seen in nature, and all the more striking for that. 
……..

Being in one place is also the best way to understand the passing of the seasons: not the great shifts between winter and spring, summer and autumn, which we all notice; but the tiny, subtle changes that occur almost imperceptibly, from week to week, and day to day, throughout the year."

Wild Hares and Hummingbirds   Stephen Moss

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