Saturday, 24 January 2015


This week-end [24th and 25th January] it's the annual Big Garden Birdwatch. That had to hold out more promise of an exhilarating time than a trip down to Watford to watch my beloved Seasiders put to the metaphorical sword. I went last year; we were dreadful and 4-0 down before half-time... no reason to think we could do any better with the manager and team our owners deem fit to represent Blackpool this season. In the event, despite taking a flattering 2-0 half-time lead, we shipped 7 goals in the second half this afternoon to lose 7-2 - and for the first time, I declined an invitation to appear on LBC after the game to discuss this latest catastrophe.

The morning broke bright and blue. The birds seemed to anticipate the excitement of today's feathery census - or maybe they were just enjoying the additional sprinkling of nuts, berries, meal-worms, cheese shavings, diced apple and sundry other temptations liberally dispensed in gardens across the land to tempt them to put in an appearance for the count.

Waxwings have been known to venture this far south in winter in search of haw berries and a few have been spotted flying around the Fylde coast in recent days, driven here by the arrival of the first really cold weather. I was anticipating being able to log such a sighting in today's one-hour count. Fuelled by coffee and armed with clock and binoculars I saw blackbirds a plenty, blue tits, chaffinches, collared doves, crows, a dunnock, great tits, house sparrows, magpies, marsh tits, robins, seagulls, masses of beautiful starlings and several wood pigeons but I didn't spot a single Waxwing. However, there's always a chance that tomorrow...

Today's poem is not of my own devising for a change. It's the first verse from Pale Fire: A Poem In Four Cantos by Vladimir Nabokov from his 1962 novel of the same name. The whole 999 line poem and the 170 page 'Commentary' on it that comprises Pale Fire is a brilliant and absorbing work of literary/detective fiction, right up there with his best novels, Bend Sinister, Lolita, Pnin and Ada. Mary McCarthy likened it to "a Faberge gem, a clockwork toy, a chess problem."

This photograph is one I took a couple of years ago of the impression left on a window in my house after a bird - I suspect a magpie or pigeon judging by the span - had inadvertently flown into the glass. There was no sign of the bird, so I assume it survived the surprise encounter. You'll see the relevance when you read the excerpt below.

from Pale Fire [canto one]

I was the shadow of the waxwing slain
By the false azure in the windowpane:
I was the smudge of ashen fluff - and I
Lived on, flew on, in the reflected sky.
And from the inside, too, I'd duplicate
Myself, my lamp, an apple on a plate:
Uncurtaining the night, I'd let dark glass
Hang all the furniture above the grass,
And how delightful when a fall of snow
Covered my glimpse of lawn and reached up so
As to make chair and bed exactly stand
Upon that snow, out in that crystal land!

Thanks for reading. I wish you all a week to look forward to. S ;-)


Steve Rowland said...

Sunday's count added goldfinches, a cluster of long-tailed tits and a wren... but no waxwings.

Adele said...

I love the imagery of the reflections of the furniture in the winter glass. So cosy on the inside and cold outside the window. Thanks Steve.