Nature Notes

Arcturus and the Foxes.

For the first time since October, blackbird song woke me before my alarm; a bar had been crossed.

The strange, unprecedented February heatwave triggered synapses alert to a season far more advanced than it actually was. It tripped a search, all senses primed, for joyful, familiar markers, a litany learnt and ingrained over decades. It is glorious. It is premature. It is not late April.

We scanned the village pond for signs of frogspawn and found none yet – but the frogs were there. Under green water, a princely webbed hindfoot waved and sculled away. The white seedheads of Old Man’s Beard, or ‘betwine’ lay thick as snow, masquerading as jelly-eyed frogspawn.  A blossom out of season.

There were a few celandines and the quince began to bud tiny red boxing gloves; flowers it was not yet ready to let go. Tightly balled handkerchiefs of tension. The only blackthorn blossom was in the towns, snowy on the roundabouts and dual carriageways, where it could bloom and berry and complete its purpose, away from the tractor and its flail.  

Above them were the basket-roofed nests of magpies, hoofed into trees like lost footballs, the middle winded out of them.

Against a swimming pool sky, I expected swallows and house martins, but we were weeks off that. The hot blue sky empty of birds didn’t correlate. There was a juxtaposition, a world turned upside down. It felt too much like presentiment. A power point slide of the near-future.

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But here came the brimstone butterflies, tumbling out of the ivy, up off the warming earth as if the primrose petals couldn’t sit still for joy and took off. A comma butterfly rested on a wall and the bees woke up. Half an hour in the garden and there were white and buff-tailed bumble bees and a hairy-footed flower bee, ginger legs dangling over the hellebores.

Past sunset and it was still 12 degrees. I went through pockets of damp mist chill and sudden rises in temperature. I put my hand down to feel the days’ heat emanating: a hand on the brow of the feverish earth.

 I went to bed uneasy, my cheeks burning.

The foxes woke me up. A vixen screaming loudly by the wood, and the woo-oo-oo of two dog foxes coming closer from opposite directions. There was a ruckus of yowls and screams. I leant out the window but all was dark. A car pulled up the lane and the headlights swept the field and caught the molten-orange eye-blink of vulpine eyes, 100m away. Tawny owls called from each corner of the wood and all points inbetween. A muntjac joined in the barking and set next door’s terriers off. The stars seemed unnaturally bright and close. Orion cartwheeled over the lane and the spring star Arcturus twinkled orange red. A celestial fox eye caught in a headlamp.


8 thoughts on “Nature Notes

  1. Always such a pleasure to read your posts Nicola… I share your unease however, at the unhinging of weather from more usual seasonal cycles… the elegant dance between weather + wildlife seems increasingly to have lost it’s rhythm… We can only observe closely and offer all the help we can to prevent further global warming. Looking forward to marching tomorrow… hope MASSES of people turn out… worldwide.

  2. Love your description of the Brimstone, Nicola, as primrose petals taking flight for joy. Sometimes a description like that just slices through you with its rightness — it perfectly encapsulates the thing it is describing!

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