As I awoke to the call of the Robin, heralding the beginning of winter, the pale yellow light slanted through my curtains and my mind wandered to my Celtic ancestors. The Winter Solstice and the beginning of Yule (Alban Arthan) was (and still is, to some) an incredibly important time. The Druids gathered the mistletoe from the mighty oak trees and burnt the Yule log. Darkness and light, both needed for respite and regeneration. The shortest day gives to us the promise of new light and as we prepare for Christmas, it’s turning point. More light promised. Elsewhere, as the bare branches become stark shadows against the sky, our garden provides shelter for scores of birds. When we moved here we cursed the Cypress Leylandii, but when, in the undergrowth, Herb Robert, Wood Anenome, Ivy and bramble appeared it wasn’t so bad after all; it provided a valuable space for nature. In Spring, countless birds nested and every day during the season the chirping chicks resounded through our football games or quiet book reading. Comforting companions. Winter is no different and although our sapling broad leaved trees are still small and growing, we learn to appreciate the warmth and shelter our cursed trees give.
Amongst my musings, I take myself once more into this now much loved green space with my camera. The wind was howling and through its whirlings a large chatter drew my attention – about ten long-tailed tits dive bombed into the feeders. They completely caught me off guard, I was daydreaming as usual. I managed to briefly catch them, they wouldn’t stay still, flitting in and out, prancing from nut to seed. Then, they were gone. The noise died down and the wind stopped, eerie stillness. A minute of wonder, gone, but I was so glad that they fleetingly came on this special day.
Long Tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) – their tails are a whopping 9cm!
In and out of daydreams, it wasn’t long before a familiar song scaled around the garden and there it was, our constant visitor and always around when I’m in the garden. He’s been defending his territory like a foghorn every day, I hope he hasn’t got into too many brawls! Robins are fiercely aggressive and have been known to sever the neck of many a competitor. ‘Our’ Robin is brash and showy, puffing up his chest, lording around the undergrowth. Always a welcome visitor though, and on a few occasions, I’ve stood statue still and he has hopped around me, close enough to feel the wind of my breath.
Hopping through the under bird world or perched on our sapling, the Robin looks stunning, sometimes menacing but always posing! I love their showy antics. The photo on the right was taken by my brother Lorcan, I think he’s way better than I am at taking photos!!
We had lots of other visitors on that Solstice morning, the sun, although low and watery, found its way to light a few patches of grass. It was magical. Even a suburban garden can be magical. The faint hum of the nearby concrete factory and the busy road to Dublin did little to drown out the chattering of the House Sparrow and Chaffinch, the constant bickering of our Collared Dove couple or the glorious croaking of a fly-over Raven. The cascading song of the Blackbird, practicing for Spring and rattle of the Song Thrush, orchestrating over the industrialisation.
Newgrange, on the Winter Solstice would be magical, watching the light fill the Neolithic chamber would of course be the perceived ultimate connection with our ancestors. To me though, sitting there amongst native birds and non native trees and the familiarity of home, was magical enough for me, for now.
The Song Thrush, female Blackbird (the males are darker black with bright orange beaks and our Collared Dove couple. All beautiful.
I would like to wish everyone who reads my blog a warm and happy Solstice, may the light shine bright!
Thanks for reading