One of my favourite winter things is to go to the wetlands place and watch the sun sinking lower and lower in the sky at the end of the afternoon. All life's stresses seem to fade a little when I'm there watching the birds. Whatever life throws my way, they just continue going about their business, hunting for food, paddling and wading, settling into their roosts, oblivious to this complicated existence us humans have created for ourselves. I breathe a little deeper and try and fix the memory in my mind.
The Bewick's swans are back from the Arctic Tundra in Siberia bringing with them their new youngsters. I don't have a photo, the biggest boy had my lens. But it's lovely to see them return each year, these rare little swans who have flown so far to spend the winter in our neck of the woods. Their numbers are dropping, no-one knows exactly why. Maybe power lines and wind turbines, maybe lead shot, there could be lots of reasons. A reminder that we need to be careful with this planet of ours.
The biggest boy and I went on a birdwatching course last week to learn how to estimate bird numbers. Out on the estuary there are often hundreds of each species, even thousands on occasion. It involved a lot of standing in the freezing cold staring out over the river. I didn't have a telescope so I got to hold the clipboard. I'm glad we had the chance to do it, but I did reach the end of my endurance. A lot of the children's activities seem to involve me standing outside being slowly frozen. I'm sure it's the same for many of you. By Sunday evening I am glad to sit down in the warm, albeit with the scent of damp football boots wafting lightly about the place.
Look at this chap.
A common eider. He isn't cold at all. Stuffed with eider down you see. Apparently the females line their nests with down from their breasts, which is so toasty and warm that their chicks can happily survive in Iceland. The locals keep them safe from predators, then later on they gather up the eider down from the nests. Apparently the total annual harvest fits into one small truck. Precious stuff.
Round here we are working on our Christmas lists. FC does not want any last minute panics or surprises. The littlest boy has added lots of helpful instructions to his, "Pretty big please" and "Please make sure it is waterproof". One of his requests is a 3D pug jigsaw puzzle. At the bottom he has put "PS If you can't make a 3D pug jigsaw puzzle I will be fine you could just make it a 2D jigsaw puzzle pug". He has spent a lot of time telling us that FC makes everything himself. So you can basically ask for whatever you want as he will just make it and it won't cost any money. Considering this conviction he has been remarkably restrained. If it was me I would go large and request a greenhouse or a pony. What would you ask FC to make for you?