Saturday, February 21, 2009

Northward bound

The sun is now clearly heading north ...

Songs burst from bushes as the early birds tune up, undaunted by recent snow. I walked over the Battlefield open space at the beginning of the week and tried to find the first signs of spring; shoots and buds. Unfortunately, I had forgot to check my camera setting (a simple and ever reliable compact) and the results were washed out and blurred. Yesterday I tried again and this time ... Well, judge for yourselves.

A warmer day with rain soon expected.

Daffodil's are pushing up through the thick layer of leaf litter like bunches of blades. Yet, even the delicate Snow drop makes it seem simple.

One I made earlier. This right beside a path and less than a foot from the ground. No indication of how successful this family of thrushes were.

Nettle in flower already.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

In gratitude

Some months ago (breaks off to listen to the joyous song of the humble Dunnock singing outside my window) I was fortunate to discover the blog of Teri Tynes, critic, writer, artist and flanneur of Manhattan, New York, New York. It has been one of the great pleasures of my recent life to read Ms Tyne's postings. They are everything a blog should be (and this one, alas, is not) – erudite with an unassuming voice, just as the great diarists can seemingly speak to us, bringing us into their confidence – and the essence of good criticism; to find what to praise; to lament what is not, to encourage and above all, to be sustainably optimistic.

Manhattan helps. I arrived there holding my head in my hands at sunset suffering a migraine and yet marvelled at what I could see. No other city, not even Paris, has done this for me. Head pounding, stomach whirling, I watched the sun set by Grand Central Station as partner Janet rushed about hailing a yellow cab and wondered how soon can I return? If you have never been I envy you. To echo Dr Johnson "Any one who is tired of New York is tired of life." It is to me the most wonderful city and in two trips I felt safe, relaxed and among friends. Compared to London (which has its own attractions however) people are polite and caring. I often yearn to go back. And I will.

Ms Tynes is an accomplished photographer. In her posts she finds just the right image to accompany her text; never the obvious – her coverage of the 2008 Crash on Wall Street was much the most superior I saw in those unhappy weeks. But her forte is the flanneur's detached and yet enthusiastic gaze taking in the variety of life that is Manhattan; the shops, caf├ęs, diners and restaurants, galleries, museums and 'passing scene'; the quiet places, parks and silent facades of historic 'old' New York and the dazzling way Tynes weaves these together, artfully concealing art. She has mastered the skill of brevity, something from which I should learn.

It is with much humility that I thank Teri Tynes for having linked my site to her own. I am deeply grateful. If anyone stumbles here by following the link she has so generously created I humbly apologise. I can offer little which compares to the riches you have just left – but welcome!

If you have not visited or heard of "Walking off the Big Apple" – what delights await you. Go and get yourself a hot drink, make yourself comfortable and enjoy. Life for me has few greater pleasures.

Friday, February 13, 2009


Some bird sightings around Battlefield in recent days. 

Apart from the ever present gulls and crows – black and thoughtful in all they do – we have the usual Magpies cackling in the trees alongside the railway, the snow seeming to highlight their piebald plumage. It comes as a shock to see how blue, iridescent blue at that, quite the equal to the more popular Kingfisher's, their wing feather patches are in this kind of light. But other birds flit through, such as the delightful Long Tailed Tit.


These charming birds, surprisingly exotic seen close up, travel about in winter often in large mixed flocks with other Tits but otherwise several in a small party. They make one of the most special nests imaginable; lichen 'stitched' together with spiders webs, forming a complete ball which wraps about the stems of a thorn bush or other low shrub for support. Once seen never forgot.

From further afield is the Redwing. These turn up from day to day in small groups, sometimes only a few birds hunting for berries when they can be found; but they can form much larger flocks especially when moving into or out of the UK on migration to their (predominantly) Scandinavian summer nesting grounds. The red under the wing can be sometimes hard to make out. I find the pale eye stripe is a surer guide. The Redwing's larger cousins and travelling companions, Fieldfares, do not seem ever to come in towns or parks, sticking to farmland where, as befits a colonial breeding bird, they can be seen in very large flocks.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Snowfield the Picturesque

Snow. I think that says it all. Third photograph down is a distant view of the Civic Centre where the decision to allow Metnor Group plc, and partners the University of Northumbria, to dig up and 're-model' the Battlefield Open Space will soon be rubber-stamped. Neither Metnor or the University of Northumbria own the space – details, always these little details! Meanwhile 'we' plebs can enjoy access whilst we may.

Details of people shown here have been altered to respect their privacy.