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Feed the birds

          It’s no secret that I like to feed the birds, in todays society it gives me mixed feelings though.  There are the obvious smiles caused by the close encounters with some of Ma Nature’s wonderful creations, but then, always present is the worry which niggles at my emotions at every level of my being.  Am I doing the right thing ? 

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          Apart from the recent argument about feeding bread to the swans.  The hoo-ha about not feeding them bread because it wasn’t nutritious had the effect that some swans hadn’t stored up enough fat to fuel the long journey south for the winter, prompting the “experts” advising us to feed them bread again… Hey ho. 

          I also wonder how much the swans themselves remember, do they know its me when I feed them?  I don’t just throw the bread to them, the seagulls are too aggressive for my liking, especially so at the moment with tourist numbers down because of the virus and the alternative pickings from their usual source of leftovers being slim, and just throwing the bread to the swans leaves them open to multiple attacks from above.  I stand at the water’s edge and break the bread up into manageable pieces then offer it them by hand.  The old-timers have gotten used to me, they take their bit of bread from my fingers, dip it in the water to make it wet, and reach out for another piece.

          I worry that I might be luring them into a false sense of security though, one pair of swans I’ve been following each year since we moved here, nest away from the main lake.  I look out for them and feed just Mama and Papa in the early summer, waiting until the babies are a lot bigger before I offer them anything.  I’ve gotten used to the pecking order… Papa Swan must be fed first, and have access to the next piece of bread at all times, then, so long as he is eating, the babies are next. “Mama Swan” holds back and waits for everone else to have had their fill, so I always save a few pieces especially for her at the end.

          I’ve been watching out for them this year and although I spotted the pair in their usual waters, they must have nested in a slightly less prominent location as I’ve only recently seen them on a family outing… Mama, Papa… And nine babies… Wow! How wonderful.

          I spotted them a short distance away and waited at the waters edge as usual.  First Papa came over to see if I’d brought him any lunch, I hadn’t, but then Mama Swan brought all nine babies over so I could say hello with my camera.  She stayed for about five minutes, and then ushered them back towards safer waters.

          I know of swan poaching happening in the area last year and I also know of one particular “not very nice” male of our species who “allegedly” kicked a baby Swan to death last year just for the fun of it.  I would be horrified if the trust I’ve built up with Mama and Papa swan caused them to be mistreated.. Or worse.. By some of the dregs of our society.

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          On a lighter note, each year we have a large gathering of geese in a different part of the nature reserve.  With the humans in lockdown, the animals and birds have been venturing further afield than usual, I’ve become accustomed to seeing the odd fox strolling around town in the wee hours of the morning on my commute to work, but Hubby stepped out to the wheelie bin the other evening and was entertained by a badger casually strolling along the pavement opposite our house.

          While feeding the swans in a regular location I was at first surprised to see a pair of geese had joined them. After a while they followed the swans lead and accepted a few offerings from my outstretched fingers.

          I spotted a few more geese testing out the same location while the people were still playing elsewhere, and was delighted to be passing while the little ones were being taken out to explore.

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          The seagulls are back on next door’s roof again… It looks like we’ve got two babies to watch out for this year.

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          There used to be a clump of grass growing in the guttering above our bedroom window, when we had the cavity wall insulation done one of the workmen cleaned out the guttering for me.  He must have just pulled out the bits we could see because I can see the grass starting to grow again in the same place. Our ladders weren’t long enough, but I’ve bought an old set of tripple ladders which are short enough to store in the shed, but will extend far enough to reach the guttering.  I know I’m too much of a perfectionist, but if you want a job doing well, you usually have to do it yourself, so as soon as the baby seagulls have flown the roost this year then I can get up to the guttering… And also paint the black downpipe by the back door.

          Next door ‘but one’ had a builder up at their roof last week, he’s a lot braver than I am, and it’s just as well he was wearing his hard had as the adult seagulls let him know he wasn’t welcome in no uncertain terms.

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          I’ve purposely put up squirrel proof feeders for our little birds in the back garden, not to stop the squirrels from visiting, I would be more than happy to see the squirrels in the garden. The feeders have been chosen to keep the bigger birds away.  We are visited by the little birds who nest in boxes in nextdoor’s garden, blue tits, great tits, and of course sparrows, but also a couple of wood pigeons who have worked out that the little birds drop seeds onto the steps and flowerbeds underneath.  I’m more than happy for them to visit as they hoover up what has been dropped… And save me having to pull up the seeds as they grow into weeds.

          Recently the pigeons have been joined by a pair of blackbirds, and I’ve even spotted a Robin and a magpie once or twice.

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          With the humans on lockdown to beat the virus, Ma Nature and her Creations have been enjoying a holiday.  As well as the recently spotted pedestrian badger in our street, there have been deer seen in gardens in suburbia, and sheep grazing on grass verges in town centres.

          I only work one really early shift a week at the moment so just manage to catch the sun rising on that one morning.  I very often see the leftover party people from the night before as I’m on my commute … Some are often a little worse for wear, but some also just sit on the sands waiting for the sun to come up.  On one of these quiet mornings though, while the party people are still away, there was quite a different group enjoying the sunrise. 

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          More from before: Semi-retirement by the seaside in “Weymouth

Virus exercise

          These are strange times we live in, the summer season in Weymouth should be in full swing, the population on a sunny Sunday afternoon should be practically doubled by tourists, but instead during a venture into the outside you can easily walk in the road to pass locals on the pavement at a safe distance with a polite nod as you go.

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          I only go out for my allowed daily exercise with Hubby about once a week, I’m still working in my little supermarket on three days, walking in, standing up for most of my shift and then plodding back home. The rest of the week I’ve been playing in the garden.

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          I remember another busy Bank holiday when I had gone out looking for a “Quiet Spot” and on this walk we headed in that direction again.

      Walking along the south side of the harbour, if you heep going to will come to the old stone pier. You pass the steps up to Nothe Gardens and the Pier Cafe, and just as the pier extends out in front of you there are a couple of… I would have said old wooden steps, but they seem to have been replaced by brand new ones… At the bottom of these steps, even when the tide is in you’ll find yourself on a tiny pebbled beach at the base of Nothe Fort.  But when the tide is out, this little beach is the gateway to so much more.

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          I’m not as young as I used to be, this second childhood is so much more fun, as I already know the bits I don’t like… Vegetables for instance… , although the little girl in me sometimes forgets my aged limitations.  Clambering out to my rock to sit with only the sea in front of me takes more careful negotiation than it would have in my younger years, I can’t afford even a little slip nowadays, and this time, once I reached the stone the warmth where it had been basking in the sun for many hours seeped through to my bones as I sat and made me smile in equal amounts to the sound of the splashing waves. As you can see from the previous photo, Hubby had his camera out too, but this is the photo I snapped from my pearch before I cambered back to dry land at the base of the Fort.

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          The next decision was made by the old lady, the hips, knees and ankles were good to go on, so instead of heading back to the pebbled beach and the Old Stone Pier, we continued around the base of the Fort towards the gardens… And the giant boulders of Portland stone, dropped into place as protection from the sea at the base of the gardens.

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          The end of the path disappears underneath the giant rocks and you have to climb over them to make your way back up to higher ground.

          At high tide the little path turns back into a secret as the waves break onto the wall of the Fort.

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          More from before: Semi-retirement by the seaside in “Weymouth

Walking home for Christmas…

          That’s my last shift done in work before Christmas, a little too close for Christmas for my liking, but now I have three whole days off to spend with Hubby and the Girls, and Boys, and to me that’s what Christmas is all about.

          No more harassed shoppers, no more retail push for the last few pennies.

           I wished my colleagues a Happy Christmas and tucked my red and white santa hat onto my bag.  I buttoned up my green coat, pulled my orange hat on over my ears, and headed for the beach.

          There was rain in the air, not enough rain to make you wet, just enough for the wind, (which after the last few storms feels really just like a gentle breeze) just enough to make you blink if it blew in your eyes, or caught you on your cheek.  I decided against a forage on the pebbles and let the wind blow onto my back as I wandered along the sands in a homeward direction, the wet sand, while firm enough to walk on, didn’t encourage the feet to pause for too long by shifting beneath them to make way for the remaining water trying to keep up with the tide.

          The sea had left me quite a reasonable piece of treasure so I carried it along in sandy gloves and wandered home along the seaweed line to collect just a few more little bits to add to it.

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          In a few months, the seaweed line will be cleared away and the beach carefully manicured for visitors to arrive with the summer.  My treasure will be scarce as the sea turns once again into a gentler giant creating plenty of shallow waters for the holiday makers to play in, but my “Stormy Smiles” will be dry enough to play with at home and the happy holiday sounds of people playing on the sands will raise a few smiles of their own.

          In the meantime, I’d just like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and as much as they can manage of what they wish for in the new year.

          More from before: living into “Semi-retirement” and beyond…