Patch Watch: February 15th, Bumblebee and Bullfinches

I have taken to walking often on the heathland. I leave work for an hour at lunchtime, follow the path through the wood and cross the busy main road. As soon as the gate clunks shut softly behind me, I am in a different world. For a short time I can put all thoughts of work or worry aside.

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The heathland has many moods; I have been getting to know its character by walking there almost every day. Recently, it has been alternately playful, and morose. Some days the low sun bounces and glares, shafting between pine trunks and flickering through the branches of the birch. The bright gorse flowers mirror the flares of light; innumerable birthday candles for the new season. A duo of roe does sprung from the tree shadows, pausing a few metres out in the heather, to gaze curiously back at me. I noted how the sunlight behind them made a halo of the fur around their large ears, and their curved rumps in grey winter coat matched the mounded vegetation perfectly.

When the light is absent, the heath takes on another emotion. One of greys and glowering clouds, dry rasping hummocks of heather and twisted pines. Hale-stones, giving teeth to the wind, scatter on the half-iced surface of the peat pools.

These pools have been filling and spreading with the winter’s rains. Water, trapped above heavy peat or bedrock, fills the spaces between the particles of the sandy soil, reaching saturation point.

Today the heathland would’ve been sparkling. It was one of those glorious early spring days, the first day when it felt more spring than winter… at long last. The waterlogged paths turned me away, so instead I walked into the village. Everywhere I turned, early flowers were tentatively beginning to bloom. It is impossible to hurry on a day like today. The soul demands to linger over each and every slight delight. Each dunnock note, each flash of sun on the ditch, each flicker and buzz of insect.

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A large queen bumblebee, the first emergence of the year, alighted for a moment of the flowers of a Daphne shrub. The disproportionate weight of her body on seemingly impossible wings made her drift and sway as though intoxicated.

In the village a pair of Bullfinches were diligently picking the buds off a garden tree; I hope the cottages resident doesn’t notice or doesn’t mind.

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