Eminence grise

Here in the Cotswolds the local stone is golden when the sun strikes, but in winter both the buildings and the landscape can look grey. But then the evening sun gilds the water, and the grey heron patrols the edge of the brook, and grey seems not such a bad color after all.

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The grey stone walls offer rewards if you have an eye for detail: the snail is a white-lipped banded snail, (Cepaea hortensis), and the indomitable lichen (Caloplaca flavescens?) already has fruiting bodies preparing to disperse spores.

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In compensation for the greyness, spring comes early in England, with a flash of gold. These winter aconites (Eranthis hyemalis) are out on January 19th, ahead even of the snowdrops. They are native to Europe, but naturalized throughout the UK.

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PS. For copyright reasons, I decided against entitling this post Fifty Shades of …

Undocumented migrants

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The temperature is 2C as I write, and brightening up my very urban and fairly monochrome London backyard…

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… there be parrots.P1160959P1170054

 

Londoners may not be surprised, but the rest of you probably associate London with pigeons, not parrots. This pigeon-toed pigeon is looking down on these foreign arrivistes in quivering disbelief, if not affront:

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The bright green invading hordes are Ring-necked Parakeets (Psittacula krameri manillensis), and there are many theories as to how they arrived in England from India, but they are now very well established in London and the South East. They have been breeding in England since 1969, and the latest count had 8600 breeding pairs. Read this if you would like more background:

https://londonist.com/london/great-outdoors/london-s-parakeets-everything-you-need-to-know

They travel in noisy flocks, sometimes hundreds strong:

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and perch or preen on anything tall, including TV antennae.

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At this time of year they are pairing off:

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I photographed all these from our fourth-floor balcony, as they preened to fluff up their plumage for our Northern climes.

 

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PS: They are also called Rosy-necked Parakeets, here’s why:

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And I am thrilled they have come to live in my city.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The year turns

New Years Eve in the Cotswolds, and the sun set on 2017:

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But 30 minutes later the moon rose:

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And the first day of 2018 offered a rainbow:

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and perhaps something wonderful at its end:

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(I left my good camera behind, but technology is very forgiving.)