A Tale of a Dunnock and a Robin

This spring our yarden has once again been visited by dunnocks and robins. David had the inspired idea of putting my action camera in the ground cage feeder, in the hope of getting some footage of our little feathered friends. The trial was a success and we got some wonderful footage of a visiting dunnock (who seems a little poser) and a flighty robin.

Robin:

Voted the UK’s National bird in 2015, and featured at number 7 in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch 2017. The robin is recognised by many due to their red breast. Their sweet song can be heard all year round, not just in the spring. Both sexes look alike but their young are speckled brown. However cute they look they are very territorial and can fight to the death!

They are of similar size and have the same diet as the dunnock, hence chasing dunnocks from gardens.

Dunnock:

I have to admit, the dunnock is one of my favourite birds. This small, quiet bird flickers about the undergrowth snatching at insects. The male’s short, yet cheery song is mostly heard of a spring but I have heard them singing come Christmastime. They are, like the robin, a ground feeder, eating insects and berries. They will eat seeds and suet come winter. Their nests are often parasitised by the cuckoo. They have colourful sex lives, most are polyandrous (one female to a number of males) or polygynous (one male to a number of females). This ensures that more than one mate will tend to the young.

I have been bowled over by how good the footage of the dunnock and the robin is. It is definitely a technique we will attempt again, perhaps on the hanging feeders!

Which garden bird is your favourite?

Thanks for stopping by,

Christine x

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‘Wild’ in Art!

WARNING! This post will be a COLOUR overload!

I was inspired to write this post after visiting Sheffield’s herd of elephants and writing about it in my Sunday Sevens #15. Mark at worldwarzoogardener1939 commented that Paignton Zoo are doing a trail with rhinos and Marwell Zoo have Zany Zebras gracing the streets of Southampton this summer! I would love to visit them all but 2016 seems to be the busiest year regarding animal street art in the UK! One of the biggest promoters of these events is Wild in Art, check out their website for past and future events.

Over the past eight years David and I have been lucky enough to visit a fair amount of trails, stretching as far north as Aberdeen, to Norwich in the east! My first encounter with these colourful animals was the Manchester Cow Parade in 2004. Since then there has been an explosion of animals gracing the cities and towns of the UK. From lions in Bournemouth to horses in Hamilton. Below is a selection of the trails we have seen. Enjoy!

2008 was the year of Liverpool’s Capital of Culture. During the summer, 120 6ft lambananas graced the city’s streets. I have fond memories of seeking each and every one of them out, there was even one atop Moel Famau in North Wales!

The winter of 2009 saw 135 5ft penguins bring cheer to the cold streets of Liverpool, St Helens and the Wirral. I don’t think they were as successful as the lambananas the previous year, even David seemed jaded in seeing them all. However I managed to capture them all on camera and even a few months after the auction date, acquired one for myself. A hint of madness but our home wouldn’t be the same without Snowy standing sentinel under the stairs!

Staying in the North West, Chester in 2010 had a herd of rhinos career through their streets.

Also in 2010, Skipton found they had a flock of sheep bringing cheer to their town…

..and we visited Newport for the first of their two Super Dragon trails.

2011 saw two very diverse trails. The first was in Congleton where a sleuth of bears had taken up residence.

The second was in Edinburgh, where the city was transformed into a jungle for the summer.

In 2012 it looked like David and I never visited any art trails, though in fairness we did buy our first house!

2013, looked more promising! My appetite was reawakened when I saw some of the Lindt Easter eggs. You can read my post here.

The summer of 2013 saw us visiting a spate of trails. We visited Manchester for the national tour of the Elephant Parade. Read my post here.

We then visited Norwich and Colchester to see both Go Go Gorillas and Stand Tall trails.

2014 saw David and I take a tour to Aberdeen, Scotland to see their pod of dolphins in torrential rain! Read my post here.

2015 saw us returning to Norwich to see their Go Go Dragons trail. I am always impressed with the quality of art from this city! I look forward to seeing what their hares look like in 2017!

Also in 2015 Liverpool had their celebration of ducks which commemorated the history of the city.

While Birmingham witnessed a parliament of owls in their Big Hoot!

As I’ve said previously 2016 will see more trails than ever before. There are pigs in Ipswich, snowdogs in Brighton and Hove and Newcastle and Tyne and Wearand lions in Paisley. That is just to name a few! Sheffield’s herd of elephants are on the streets until 5th October when they will be auctioned off for charity like most of the above. They are a great way of getting the public behind a charitable cause and can raise hundreds of pounds!

Have you seen/followed any animal sculpture trail? What do you think of the initiative? What kind of animal would you like turned into art next?

Christine x

#PoppiesTour – Liverpool

I have previously written about the 14-18 NOW Wave and Weeping Window poppy tour. You can read my post on my joy at seeing the Wave at Yorkshire Sculpture Parkhere. Both sculptures were designed by Paul Cummins (artist) and Tom Piper (designer).

The Wave

The Wave at YSP

In November, just in time for the city’s Armistice commemorations, the poppies, first seen as part of the breathtaking Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, at the Tower of London in 2014, finally came to Liverpool. The Weeping Window at present graces the St George’s Plateau side of the Neo-Classical Grade 1 listed building. I must admit while the sculpture was being constructed I was not overtly taken by the design. After seeing pictures of the poppies at Woodhorn Colliery, it seemed somehow anticlimactic.

However the poppies have grown on me and the city has welcomed them warmly.

The poppies are open to the public from 10am to 6pm daily, with a metal barricade placed around the site after hours, but you can still see them and photograph them. The first time David and I went to see them was around 10pm on a stormy Sunday night. My pictures are not as good as the ones I took of the Wave, but I did have my camera on the wrong setting for night-time pictures (silly me!)

Poppies at night

St George’s Hall: Weeping Window at night

The second time I visited, I went with my Mum while Christmas shopping but once again I forgot to change the setting on my phone, so never got any fancy ones with just the colour of the poppies showing through. It was a dreary day light wise too which seems to be the norm of late. No sooner had the poppies arrived in Liverpool, then there seems to have been nothing but a succession of storms. There hasn’t been many days when the sun has shone! I live in hope that there will be at least one bright weekend, before they leave the city on 17th January 2016, so David and I can visit them one last time.

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The 2016 leg of the poppy tour has been recently announced and there could be at least one, maybe two more occasions where David and I will see the poppies. The new sites and dates are as follows:

  • Lincoln Castle, The Wave – 28th May to 4th September
  • The Black Watch Museum, Perth, The Weeping Window – 30th June to 25th September
  • Caernarfon Castle, The Weeping Window – 12th October to 20th November

If you have not had the chance to see the poppies, maybe you will be able to see them at these stunning new locations next year?

© 2015 Christine Lucas.

Update on the garden 1

It’s been a busy few weeks back at work so I have not had much chance to peruse the garden, well not as much as I would like! The weather has not been so great either… I am sure last year’s weather was much better than how 2015 is turning out! I am waiting for the sun to shine and the mercury in the thermometer to rise to 20° as I want to invite family around for a BBQ! As it is I am still waiting!

David today commented that he liked the ‘purple flowers in the shaded area of the garden.’ I informed him that it was the aubretia, it has spread substantially in the past few weeks, threatening to overcome the dwarf rhododendron, but I will cut it back once the flowering has ended.

Aubrieta

Aubrieta

Other news in the garden… the tulips have faded and all 15 bluebells have flowered, they look lovely! The scabiosa is flourishing for a second year and the wallflower has bushed out so much it is swamping the beautiful pink blooms of the azalea and shadowing the French lavender that has many more buds on than last year!

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The honeysuckle is once again covered in flower buds, (it has always been a good grower). I have more bulbs sprouting… could be the orchids I planted? They are amongst the gladioli and lilies so it is just a waiting game as to what flowers.

Last bank holiday Artie and I were outside in the garden. Artie was chasing flies and other insects and I was weeding the garden, when a familiar buzzing passed by. ‘It’s a bee!’ I cried, but Artie had also seen it and darted at it, pinning the poor creature to the garden wall. I threw Artie off and watched as the poor bee, a Hairy Footed Flower Bee, staggered about. We gave her (for it was a female solitary bee) some sugar solution and let her rest. We did not find a carcass so I hope she was only stunned and managed to fly on her merry way, otherwise a passing bird could have snatched her up. I prefer the former suggestion. I shall have to keep Artie out of the garden come the time the cat mint blooms or he will have a field day with the Honeybees…who I hasten to add, sting!

Hairy-footed flower bee female

Hairy-footed flower bee female

Gustav Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’ Symphony!

I’m not an expert in classical music. I don’t know much terminology nor can I decipher notation. I listen just because it makes me feel. Some pieces make me feel serene: Allegri’s Miserere, some make me want to dance, Arturo Márquez’s Danzón No. 2, and others just simply take me to a place both spiritually and emotionally that is unparalleled by any other medium! For me, Gustav Mahler’s music does that above any other composer. I may be a bit biased as Mahler was the composer who made me turn away from my ‘pop’ loving years of the 90’s to re-acquaint myself with classical music, but his symphonies especially his later ones from the 5th onwards often have me quaking with a mixture of heightened emotions!

Gustav-Mahler

Gustav Mahler

There is joy to be heard in Mahler’s work for example his 1st Symphony bristles with youthful energy. Love is to be found in his 3rd Symphony, not only human love but of nature too. His 9th Symphony is filled with heavy pathos and heartfelt resignation but it is not done in a depressive way, it’s more of an enlightened way, which enables deep soul searching. And then there is the fear and tragedy that punctuates his 6th Symphony and resonates so powerfully in his 2nd!

It is Mahler’s 2nd Symphony, entitled the Resurrection, that I now turn my attention to.

The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra performed the Resurrection twice this April, on Wednesday 29th and again on Thursday 30th. I booked tickets for the Wednesday performance. It was almost a full house! We were in the ‘cheap seats’ up in the gallery but we had a perfect view of the brightly illuminated orchestra.

Mahler's 2nd at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall

Mahler’s 2nd at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall

I read the programme notes before the concert and Stephen Johnson mentioned that in the early performances of Mahler’s first three symphonies, Mahler gave detailed accounts of each movement and what ’emotions they aroused.’ However he was not entirely satisfied with having to tell the audience what to feel, what he meant by his music. Mahler said, ‘In my conception of the work I was in no way concerned with the detailed setting forth of an event, but much rather of  a feeling.’ This remark resonated with me and on the night of the concert the feelings became manifest sending goose flesh and shivers all over my body. In fact the performance of the Liverpool Philharmonic conducted by Sir Andrew Davis reverberated deep within my body and I felt the effects long after I had left the hall and stood shivering outside awaiting my bus! Even David who is not a Mahler fan said he felt ‘shivers’.

Sir Andrew Davis is not a conductor I have seen perform before. I know of his reputation but have not seen him conduct live. He is a conductor of much energy, jumping and jigging on the podium with his long tail coat flapping. He did not carry a baton but commanded the orchestra with the shape of his expressive hands. You could see that he really had fun with the orchestra. His years of experience showed. I was surprised to read that Davis was 71 years old he really moved about with the energy of a younger man, I couldn’t keep my eyes off him!

Sir Andrew Davis

Sir Andrew Davis

The sound from the orchestra was breathtaking. In the 2nd Symphony there are moments of light hearted fun (the Ländler) and solemn solemnity as found in the Urlicht performed by the Mezzo Soprano Catherine Wyn-Rogers. I could find no fault in her performance, nor that of the choir, however Catherine Jones of the Liverpool Echo said the ‘German text wasn’t as crisp as it could have been.’ The brass for me still played a bit ropey at times (though they got the loudest cheer come applause) and some passages sounded a bit muted in the hall. In her review, Catherine Jones said ‘even the controversial new acoustic, which tends to over-amplify the brass, acted in the work’s favour by adding depth rather than overpowering the whole.’

Alfred Hickling reporting for the Guardian remarked at the ‘frenzied’ attack Davis gave Mahler’s second. I found that the pace was ideal, though brisk it sounded better than some languishing performances of the symphony. Hickling commented mainly on Davis’s appointment as Conductor Emeritus. On the night he was presented with the award and made a speech saying he was ‘deeply touched and honoured’ by the gift and relished ‘the prospect of making music regularly,’ in Liverpool, a ‘wonderfully vibrant city, of which the Orchestra is the finest jewel.’ I’d have to agree. While Davis was making this speech and the orchestra and chorus performed Mendelssohn’s Lauda Sion Op.7I felt overwhelming pride and respect for the Liverpool Philharmonic, and with this being their 175th year anniversary there is much to celebrate!

My most favourite part of the Resurrection Symphony (apart from Urlicht) is about 10 minutes into the finale. It is the orchestral version of the hymn like chorale that will finish the symphony. When I listen to this part that steadily builds up into a triumphant crash of percussion interlaced with strings and trumpeting brass I always imagine the golden rays of a rising sun stretching its light over a slumbering countryside. Sheep rear their heads from a night of rest and a horse drawn carriage trundles along a narrow country lane. Under Davis’s command the Liverpool Philharmonic played this passage to awe-inspiring heights, some would call it apotheosis, (no recordings I’ve heard come close to it!) The sound filled the entire auditorium! My heart swelled with emotion and I have never heard the orchestra sound so loud, so passionate, so emotional, I indeed had a tear in my eye!

The only jip I had was with the audience, of hissing coke bottles being opened, mobile phones tinkling and the guy behind me humming along to the choir! But none could detract from the performance which culminated in the most rousing finale I’d ever heard!

What would Mahler have thought? If he had heard the mobile phone he would have undoubtedly stopped the performance, like he did when someone had a coughing fit at one of his performances.

Though undoubtedly what Mahler would have thought is of little consequence. Personally, I came away from the hall feeling satisfied. A young couple in front of us talked about how religious the symphony was. I have a feeling Mahler’s Resurrection is more emotional than religious, whether it is a ‘spiritual religious’ or a ‘spiritual emotional’ is another discussion. What is for certain is that there is no ‘judgement’ in Mahler’s 2nd Symphony. Stephen Johnson in his programme notes says that, ‘the 2nd Symphony marks a huge progression from darkness and death through to light and affirmation of life and love.’ There ‘is no judgement…There is no punishment… an overwhelming love illuminates our being. We know and are.’ It can only be a good thing to be all knowing at the end of it all. The end of all things.

© Christine Lucas 2015.

Big Garden Bird Watch 2015!

For the past couple of years I have been partaking in the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch, and this year was no exception!

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I did the count over the weekend. I spent the first hour on Saturday in Mum’s house, next door, counting the birds that visit her yard and then did another hour on Sunday from my home.

The tally from Mum’s yard was:

  • 19 Pigeons
  • 1 Blue Tit
  • 13 goldfinches
  • 1 Starling

From my yard:

  • 1 Starling
  • 8 Pigeons
  • 2 Goldfinches
  • 2 Blue Tits

Which isn’t too bad since my garden seems to be an overflow to the visiting birds next door! Alas the Dunnock nor Robin was seen during those hours!

Since this Sunday has been the warmest for a while, I ventured outside. I have many bulbs poking through the soil and I wonder whether they will be Snow Drops or Bluebells come spring. Even my Tulips are sprouting making me excited for warmer weather! Amongst my perusal, I gasped in surprise as I noticed my Hyacinth sitting proudly in the garden. This is the second year it has grown!

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