One of my favourite trees is the Alder, and all around one bend of the river there’s a small grouping of them, with slooping and spindly branches that nearly touch the ground. When the branches are all bare they look more like they’re scratching outwards, all witches fingers as they catch in my hair if I clamber about too deep underneath them…brrrr…at the moment the branches are adorned with both catkins and small cones (Alder has both male flowers and female flowers on the same tree, the dangling lamb-like tail catkins are the males while the female flowers look like the tiniest little fir cones.)
These all grow right on the river bank, and in the Summer they’re often seen with branches full of tiny birds, resting before darting out to catch some of the insects which fly and flutter about over the water……
In the Winter months those lichen coated wood gnarly fingers can enchant me for ages, I’m happy to stand and look at all the tiny flecks of colour, and watch the birds flying overhead, or hop and dance along the branches searching for food.
While I’m taking photos I can hear a woodpecker….it’s always hard to judge exactly where they are as the sound echoes, and when it’s foggy it seems even harder to get a bearing…..and then a dart of colour flies out of the mist and it’s in one of the alders above my head, leaf green and white with splashes of red…..a few beady eyed glances around then it’s off and the noise starts up again. I’ve seen both the European green (which this was) and the great spotted woodpecker in our garden a few times, mostly sitting on one of the fences, and certainly not quite so close as this….I’m no @jenireid when it comes to taking photos of wild birds, my pictures always come out a bit blurred, and I’m more content to stand and gawp then struggle to focus my camera.
I used to be friends with a lovely elderly couple and they had woodpeckers come to their feeding station everyday, both of the larger species would happily feed side by side with all the other birds…..(their garden was a real wildlife haven and once when Mrs E. was washing up, a roe deer that had been eating her flowers looked up and stared at her through the window over the washing up bowl…..)
All very u nlike the tits that have of late become the playground bullies of our garden…it’s not all of them but the great tits and blue tits are terrible, between them they chase off blackbirds and chaffinches, goldfinches and the pair of robins…..we get a lot of long tailed tits, especially when it’s cold, they are probably my favourite as they are so pretty, and their call sounds like a little boy doing farty under the armpit noises….very squeeky sounding and so funny to hear…they dart around and impress me more than any display by the Red Arrows, they’ll happily share food with other birds…but the great tits and blue tits fly up and really do seem to go on the attack if someone else is at one of their fat balls….we’ve over a dozen feeders in the garden, no-one is going to go hungry, but they certainly get very territorial. The tiny badger faced coal tits seem to escape their radar as do the pair of wrens that have become quite regular visitors to the garden. About the only birds that don’t stand for their nonsense are the wood pidgeons and the starlings.
Elsewhere along the river there are small copses, full of clumps of dead and fallen trees, all moss covered and grassy. In the Autumn they’re covered with the most bizarre looking fungi, from tiny singular mushrooms on the wispiest stem to fat and spawling monsters that look more like insulation foam…this morning in the frost and fog the moss looks so blankety and soft, more like a fur covered woodland creature with grassy green prickles on it’s back…..
Each tiny frond of moss is covered in icy crystals, frozen and quite perfect to look at. The moss that grows here is really spongy and deep, when it’s warmer it’s nice to sit here, take a few minutes and just be still. You can stoke and coase the moss then, it’s almost warm in the sunshine and feels more like some sleeping, half enchanted fairy tale creature than something growing.
I love the mix of browns in the bark, how the layers all lift to reveal new shades, new textures, combined with the brightest of greens……I think this would be a good source of colour inspiration for when I start learning how to do stranded knitting…a pattern that incorporates barky wild browns and the bright green of the moss.