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Winter Robin

While observing the catkins on fairy lane, I was, all of a sudden, joined by this robin. She came and sat within a meter as if she were an old friend. Quite boldly she twitched and turned her head to look at me, working out if I had any crumbs to offer, before we were interrupted by a runner. Her lack of timidity doesn’t come as a surprise, there are a fair few people who feed the birds around the lanes. One man in particular trails the lanes each morning with bird food, his path is breadcrumbed by flocks of crows, magpies and these conspicuous hedgerow robins.

Early Hazel Catkins

Deep winter is here now, rest is being taken before we start to rise again into the Spring, but some just can’t take a break. The first signs are already emerging, I have observed a number of hazel catkins extending to release pollen and pink female hazel flowers starting to poke their heads out. A very specific, considerably elderly, hazel coppice down by the stream at Paddington Farm is releasing its male flowers in great numbers. Why this one hazel has decided to release early is up for discussion, perhaps it is under some stress, perhaps it recognises a mild winter we are having and is fooled into believing it’s Spring, or perhaps it is just an anomaly.

Many are seeing these things and wondering if there is something awry climate-wise, there might be something to be said for that. I also wonder if it’s a result of our ever closer and broadening collective observation. A recent article detailed a collective survey of seasonal plant behaviour which showed there are typically outliers, hangers-on, and early risers, and in most cases it’s to do with the very local environment rather than the overarching one. Of course, this is always up for debate.

While elder’s new growth has not yet lost its leaves, a nearby older specimen has already half opened next year’s new leaves, many will remain in a state of half unfolded until the start of Spring. I hypothesise that these leaves are the plants temperature and light gauge. Perhaps the elder releases a few leaves to make the most of what Winter sun is there, while the ‘overstory’ trees are bare, and to ensure that not too much damage is inflicted if a frost occurs.

Stone Down Lane, view to the Tor

Stone Down Lane, view to the Tor

We are taught the simplistic version of the story of the seasons, we are given the impression that the seasons are definite, that one finishes and the other ends, and without close observation this cannot be disproved. The more I observe the more it’s revealed that trails of the summer run right into the deep winter, and before all the trees have lost their leaves some have already started to unfurl next year’s. There is great nuance and gradation in the movement of the seasons, it leads me to consider the depth of shrouded nuance in our own processes, behaviours and ways of being.

Other local walkers have reported early primroses, daffodil bulbs and I even saw a picture of an early snowdrop. I wonder if these eager actions will be thwarted by a cold snap in the coming weeks, this morning’s deep frost might be a sign of what’s in store.

Frosty Oak Leaf, Bushy Coombe


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Matt Witt

Author Matt Witt

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