Saturday, March 22, 2014

Ne’re Cast A Clout

There came a nasty surprise this morning. 

Spring snow and sleet.

Since when did a little sleet and snow put paid to a spot of birding? The screen wipers quickly disposed of the offending material, I donned hat, scarf, gloves and heated seat then set off north to Pilling. 

There was a cold wind blowing too but it didn’t deter a Chiffchaff singing from the trees at Lane Ends; 5 Little Egrets had not left the roost but instead lounged around the sheltered-from-the-wind edge of the pool. A single Lesser Redpoll flew over seemingly heading north - my first redpoll of the Spring. 

I battled West against the wind to check out Pilling Water hoping for a Wheatear or two. A single bird hunkered down in the shelter of the rocks below the sea wall. I wondered if it could be the one I ringed on Wednesday but very unlikely with so many Wheatears beginning to appear along the coast before heading into the hills and The Pennines. So it proved, another second year female lured by a mouth-watering mealworm. 

Northern Wheatear

Northern Wheatear

A Little Egret, 40+ Redshanks and a Green Sandpiper on the pool but no further reason to hang around in the bitterly cold morning so I headed back to Lane Ends and then to Braides Farm. 

There’s been an influx of Pink-footed Geese this week, birds from Norfolk stopping off for a feed before continuing their journey with another pause in Scotland before their final destination of Iceland. 

Quite huge numbers greeted me - perhaps 5/6000 birds crowded into the several fields close to the sea wall. I spent an hour or more with the geese hoping some might come closer but they are all still highly wary of passing traffic or brightly coloured cyclists passing by. Leaving the car would be a recipe for disaster by sending the geese into a frenzy of flight and stopping them feeding, so remaining in the warmth of the car seemed a good option. 

Pink-footed Geese

Pink-footed Geese

I counted 30 Lapwings scattered across the wet fields, almost all of them distributed as to suggest that winter flocking is over and territory is the name of the game. Not so with the Golden Plover as large flocks are moving through the area and one of 350+ here today. 

A female Merlin paid a brief visit to the fence, staying long enough to take a look around before dashing off towards Lane Ends. It was a long way off along a line of posts!

Merlin

A couple of Little Egrets, a couple of Skylarks before a tractor and a dismounting driver sent the pinkies over the sea wall and out of sight. Oh well, it was good while it lasted. 

Oh yes, I almost forgot. 'Ne'er cast a clout till May be out' is an English proverb. From "Phrases UK"

"The earliest citation is the rhyme from Dr Thomas Fuller 1732, although it probably existed in word-of-mouth form well before that. Since at least the early 15th century 'clout' has been used to mean 'a blow to the head', 'a clod of earth or 'a fragment of cloth, or clothing'. It is the last of these that is meant in 'cast a clout'. So, 'ne'er cast a clout...' simply advises not to discard your warm winter clothing. 

The 'till May be out' part is where doubt lies. On the face of it this means 'until the month of May is ended', but there is another interpretation. In England, in May, you can't miss the Hawthorn. It is an extremely common tree in the English countryside, especially in hedges. Hawthorns are virtually synonymous with hedges. The name 'Haw' derives from 'hage', the Old English for 'hedge'. The tree gives its beautiful display of flowers in late April/early May. It is known as the May Tree and the blossom itself is called May. Using that allusion, 'till May is out' could mean until the hawthorn is out in bloom."

Stay tuned to Another Bird Blog where the true warmth of Spring may eventually arrive and you can share it.

Linking today to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday, Anni's Blog, Camera Critters and Eileen's Saturday Blog .

25 comments:

Roan said...

I always enjoy all of your bird pics. These are great!

carol l mckenna said...

Very impressive bird photography ~ Love Merlin ~ xxx

artmusedog and carol

Rajesh said...

So many birds all in place. Great shots.

Karen said...

Beautiful wheatear portrait Phil! Is the Merlin a hawk?
Having British grandparents on both sides, I know that saying well, and have found myself repeating it often at this time of year!

Adam Jones said...

Super Merlin Phil. Had a similar experience today with the hail on the car.

Wally Jones said...

Happy to see you don't let a bit of weather foul up your "fowling".

A lot of geese hanging about still!
Splendid photographs of the Wheatear.
That's a better look at a Merlin than most are able to get!

I appreciate the explanation about the saying as I didn't have a clue!

Sorry to have been absent from commenting on your blog for a bit. Hope to catch up soon!

Have a wonderful week, Phil! Hope it warms a bit.

Janet Shaw said...

Great close up of the Northern Wheatear.

Gunilla Bäck said...

Fantastic photos of the wheatear. It's a pretty bird.

Mary Cromer said...

The Wheatear is devine as are those Pink Footed Geese. You would think that I would have seen a Merlin around these parts, but I never have, but sure would enjoy it. What a neat fence row! We are enjoyig warm weather yesterday and today, enough to get way more downed trees logged...oh my goodness what a task of labor this has been! Anyway I think tomorrow evening and Monday more snow coming our way...sigh...what are you going to do;) Happy rest of your weekend~

Mary Cromer said...

The Wheatear is devine as are those Pink Footed Geese. You would think that I would have seen a Merlin around these parts, but I never have, but sure would enjoy it. What a neat fence row! We are enjoyig warm weather yesterday and today, enough to get way more downed trees logged...oh my goodness what a task of labor this has been! Anyway I think tomorrow evening and Monday more snow coming our way...sigh...what are you going to do;) Happy rest of your weekend~

eileeninmd said...

I am glad the snow/sleet did not stop your birding outing.. I love the cute Geese! The Merlin is cool! Great photos and awesome birds. Thank you for linking up with Saturday's Critters.. Have a happy weekend!

Carole M. said...

Phil you sure braved the weather and managed to capture a beautiful Northern Wheatear too. Do you take these photos yourself? Bird in one hand, camera in the other?

The happy wanderer. said...

Your weather looks appalling! Lovely to see the Merlin, a bird I've yet to see.

Anni said...

Interesting tidbit about the hawthorne tree and its meaning. Never realized.

That N. Wheateater is very attractive, loved the close up. The eyes tell me that there is trust yet, leery of that that surrounds it at the moment.

Pink footed geese...and such high numbers! I can only imagine the ruckus heard...even from the warm car.

Also, the female Merlin...didn't find a meal so....moved on, she did.

David Gascoigne said...

An esoteric and interesting post indeed. As for that piddly little bit of snow on your windshield - I am certainly glad to read that such an insignificant trace did not deter you from your morning rounds.
Sincerely,
A Hardy Veteran of the True North Strong and Free.

HansHB said...

A great serie! Lovely bird!

I've posted a birdphoto at my B&W Blog, too:
http://hanshb.wordpress.com/

Jen said...

I've stayed in the car a few times this year. I know of a couple spots where the best pics are taken through the window of a vehicle.

Yes, the black vulture is smaller than the turkey vulture - 25" vs 27". How did you see that in separate photos?

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Welll ... I hope the hawthorne blooms soon for you. (I confess to skipping through the post to find the meaning of the quote at the beginning, but then I went back to the beginning to "hear" the chaffinch and marvel at your wonderful bird counts -- as always.

Fun60 said...

I used to hear that saying many times in my childhood in Manchester.

Cynthia said...

I love those pink geese legs. I hope it's not a result of the cold. (Just kidding). We have had snow all day where I live.

Shey Wicklund said...

Phil, you're such a great storyteller that it feels like we're birdwatching with you and keeping warm in the intense cold. Wonderful shots esp of the pink-footed geese and another great post.

mick said...

Of course the temperatures over your way are opposite to what we are enjoying at present! I wouldn't mind your cold just for an hour or so! Great photos and the Wheatear is beautiful. An interesting proverb/saying and thanks for the explanation. I sometimes wonder if we actually speak the same language??!!

HOOTIN ANNI said...

I had to come back a moment to view your wheateater again. We were at a park the other day, birding of course, and someone pointed out a wheateater...I didn't see it naturally, but I honestly thought they were European birds. Maybe there is a species here in the Americas. But had to double check...now must go out on google to do more research.

Today my post is all about EYES...the Eyes of Texas. LOL

Hope you're having a super Tuesady [or coming up on Wednesday in your case, probably]

Findlay Wilde said...

Well done on the Wheatear. I haven't seen one yet this year, but I did get my second Brambling of the year at the weekend. From Findlay

Margaret Adamson said...

HI Phil Love the Wheatear and there are a good number of the geese. Love the Merlin shot also.

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