Last week, my theme for my workshops at Walton, Cavendish and Newholme Hospitals was Wildlife in Winter. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, that watching and enjoying wildlife is something that most people can do, even if they are not active. It’s so rewarding and entertaining to watch birds on a bird table from the comfort of a window. Secondly, it was the week of the Winterwatch wildlife TV programmes, broadcast live from the snowy Cairngorms, and it was also leading up to the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, which I encouraged patients and staff to take part in. I’ve taken part in the Birdwatch today in my local park. Read more about it here.
The patients and staff really enjoyed talking about wildlife, and I learned lots as well – some lovely stories, wildlife knowledge and folklore that you can read about in the poems below.
As the week wore on, we were enduring freezing temperatures and very wintry weather too, as it started snowing on Tuesday night and we woke up to a wintry wasteland on Wednesday.
By Friday, the snow had melted enough to allow me to drive to Bakewell to deliver a Dales Tales session at the Age Concern Centre in Bakewell. I thought they would enjoy the wildlife in winter theme, and they did, having a great discussion that carried on long after I’d left!
“One for Sorrow” –
You’ve got to salute a magpie
In case he brings bad luck.
The wood pigeon is a big bully –
Eating food the other birds need.
The chaffinch looks like a little old man
In a grey cap. He has lovely colours,
Russet orange, and a lovely song.
Sparrows come into the kitchen
To peck up crumbs, if I leave the door open.
They’re good companions.
Their noisy chirping is a homely background.
The hedgehog has a face like a little granny.
Blackbirds start singing very early.
The robin waits on top of the fence
For the gardener to turn up some worms.
The great tit sounds like a rusty wheel.
Sparrows in a mob – always falling out,
Flying off in a flock when something scares them.
Fox cubs playing first thing in the morning.
It’s lovely to watch them.
I like to feed bird: sparrows and blue tits.
The crows like to pick bones I put on the bird table.
The flocks have a strict pecking order –
One of them seems to be in charge.
Magpies take fledglings; take glittery things.
They attract attention to themselves.
Rooks have feathery trousers.
Blackbirds feast on rose hips in the garden.
I get a hard stare from the robin when there’s no food left!
Good Morning, Mr Magpie
“Good morning, Mr Magpie, how your family?”
That’s what you say when you see a magpie alone.
They steal fluffy chicks and unhatched eggs,
Fly in treetops, looking for pigeon nest to raid,
Listening for the sound of fledglings.
The blue tits are the gardener’s friend
Eating aphids and caterpillars,
But my wife believed that birds were bad omens
And wouldn’t let them in the house –
Apart from our parrot. He was an exception.
He would impersonate a motorbike
That passed the house every day.
She wouldn’t allow a bird picture or ornament
And I had to keep my bird books in the shed.
Birds of a feather…
The crows calling in the tree
All saying “where’s my tea?”
A mob of greedy starlings
Eating all the food, not starving.
They gather to roost at Longstone Moor
Synchronised flying, never unsure.
The skylark sings as it lifts to the sky
To drop and evade the predator’s eye
The sweet melody of the blackbird’s song
Reminds us of summer, when daylight’s long.
The goldfinches twitter and fly in flocks
The “spuggies” perch in the window box.