Friday 22 May 2020

Lockdown Day 60 - Yellow Wagtail

When I started this series of blog posts I never imagined that I would be up to day 60 and still in some form of lockdown due to COVID-19. There has been a slight relaxation of the rules, which to be honest, due to people taking undue risks and ignoring the advice, has been to the detriment of infection control and I fear that, far from being over, this crisis could get worse again. I would love to get back to work in the charity shop, but when that will be no one really knows at the moment.

However, after some welcome early morning rain, I decided to set off on my bike into the countryside for some exercise and a break from all the news. The pair of curlew were still around in a field near Catterton and I do wonder whether they are breeding there, I would have expected them to have moved up into the Pennines before now. The bluebells in woodland have nearly all finished now although the smell of wild garlic is still there - both seem to grow in the same woodland and I feel it is a sign of that woodland having being there a long time even if the actual trees are more recent.

Out of curiosity I decided to go up a lane near Healaugh which ultimately turns into a bridleway, although is tarmac for about half a mile. After pausing to admire some Zwartbles sheep, slightly further up I encountered a Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava flavissima) pottering on the lane and which was quite happy to let me watch it for a while. The Yellow Wagtail has a number of different sub species within Europe although in general we get the one that I saw, although I have seen a blue-headed one in Denmark and a small number of the other European ones migrate through the UK. Yellow Wagtails come to the UK for summer and winter in West Africa and some more information about their migration can be found here

Over the past three or so weeks, the hawthorn blossom has been out, and it is no wonder that it is also called May blossom. Most of the ones you see out in the countryside have white flowers but occasionally you see pink ones, like the one in our garden which is a cross breed, more ornamental variety.

One of the many things I love about the countryside near where I live is that it doesn't take long to get out into open spaces with few, if any people around. A little bit further on than where I saw the Yellow Wagtail I stopped for a few minutes just enjoying the peace and quiet and the sunshine, with no one around in any direction for at least half a mile or more. As well as the Yellow Wagtail, there were Linnets twittering and flying up from the edge of the path and a Meadow Pipit in characteristic bobbing flight over the field.

The lane turned into a bridleway and went up a small hill. (We don't have big hills around where I live!) The wind by now had got up and it was really difficult to face into the wind and cycle into it. I find the view of wide open spaces with miles of countryside (or better still moorland or true wilderness like in Iceland) incredible relaxing and I have tried in this picture (despite the wind!) to capture this and the "big sky" effect. Despite the overnight rain, the ground is still really dry. We have noticed that our own hawthorn tree in the garden is getting quite short of water and its leaves are turning paler than usual - I have put about forty litres of water down around its roots. I can imagine that the lack of rain will be feeding through into crop growth on farmer's fields too.

I am very glad I don't live in a city and feel very sorry for those who only have concrete and buildings for their view and limited opportunity, particularly at the present time, to get outside into countryside or even a park. I think I would have found this lockdown a lot harder if I didn't have the countryside, and open space on our doorstep.

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