Heralding Spring

All day long yesterday and today we could hear the distant mournful cries of cranes as they fly North from their winter feeding grounds in Spain and Africa, up to the Baltic States to nest and breed during the summer months. They fly above the house twice a year when heading either north in Spring, or south in Autumn. It lifts your heart to hear that raw chorus of raucous cries, for they are heralding Spring…..hoorah!

The mass migration can last up to a month, but it’s always exciting to hear the first vanguard. There were hundreds and hundreds yesterday; we rushed out to watch them shielding our eyes against the glare of the sky. Every year we are mesmerised by clouds of birds whirling round whilst caught up in the thermals, losing direction, swirling round and round until they find their bearings, then within a few seconds they fall back into that familiar V formation, then onward they fly slipstreaming and calling, day and night.  It is not easy to find the strength to pull yourself away from watching this phenomenon which has been repeating itself for thousands of years,  and will continue long after we are gone. No frontiers for them, they have the freedom to move when they wish.

To the casual observer these photos are probably just a load of pictures of the sky with a few black specks, but they remind me of our insignificance in the great scheme of things.


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In my last post I showed some acrylic colour sketches, I’m not sure I like working with acrylics. I suppose I must persevere though, because I am working in a confined space and the oil solvents are affecting my throat. As it’s still cold, (we have had thick frosts the last couple of days) I am working in the house when I get the chance; I only hope those cranes know what they are doing, it doesn’t feel any warmer to me!

Here are two 10 x 10 canvasses painted with acrylic, they have a different feel from oils. I am tempted to work some oil over the top, but I am leaving them for a while. The tomatoes aren’t quite finished, as you can see the stalks need emphasising.

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14 thoughts on “Heralding Spring

  1. Spring – bring it on! I love this post Liz, it really has the excitement of the first glimpses of spring about it. I know what you mean about acrylics, I switched from oils some time ago as the solvents were making me feel pretty unwell and it took a while to get used to them although now I rarely use anything else.

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    • Yes, I’m not the only one then. There are the water based ones of course, trouble is I have loads of huge tubes of paint , and I’m too mean to ditch them! Acrylic is so opaque looking, I don’t even like the look of it as I squirt it from the tube, a ritual I enjoy with oils. I’m trying the low odour white spirit, plus using liquin, instead of turps.

    • Hi Anita, good to hear from you. Frogs, how lovely! We also have small toads that burrow. They make a delightful piping sound exactly like the beep of the pricing thing at the till in a supermarket. When they chorus all night it sounds as though little bells are chiming. We call them bar code toads, I don’t know what the Latin name is ! Sadly we haven’t heard them for about 6-7 years now, I really miss them, and hope they are not suffering the same fate as many frogs and toads are, that of extinction.

  2. indeed!! how special is it and what joy as you hear them first, and then rush outdoors to welcome them on their way! thank you for the wonderful description .

    good to see you yesterday

    judy xxx

    Sent from my iPad

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  3. Hi Liz. We too have been enchanted and awed watching the cranes. Each year we look forward to the magnificent spectacle. I read that they break formation to take a rest and change placed in the V formation, so those that worked hard on the windward side get a break flying downwind. Also, when a crane becomes ill or too old to continue, two other cranes leave with him and stay until he gets better or dies. Wonderful creatures.

    • That’s a lovely story, you are right, they are wonderful birds. I have often worried about the ones who seem to lag behind and wonder if they will ever catch up, it’s good to know they are helping one another.

  4. lovely pictures of the cranes – reminds me of when we were with you last spring, it was so exciting to hear then see them. Much love to you both x

  5. I love the notion that in a helter-skelter, dog-eats-dog universe, where corporate (and individual) immoralities and cruelties go unchecked and uncriticised, that in the skies above us there is heroic altruism evidenced in the behaviour of cranes. What beauty and poetry there is in that idea.

    Thank you Liz… and thank you Nancy… for offering an picture that will stay with me.

    Here, quite by chance, I’ve found the perfect metaphor encapsulating why things don’t have to be as we’ve recently experienced, because there are better ways. It took a flock of cranes to perfectly catch the tone of what I was reaching for by way of comfort.

    • Dear Clive, I am so glad this post gave you solace; watching and hearing the migration is such an uplifting experience, like an encountering an opera in the skies. You may or may not remember my our story of Cock-a-leekie, our last cockerel, who, after many battles with other cockerels, lost first one eye then the other. The poor thing would wander around all over the place, and it became quite a feat to find him every evening to pop him back in the henhouse. Eventually we had to enclose him in his own run, just to keep him safe; we added a couple of hens for company, and he seemed happy enough. I loved observing them,( I can sit for hours watching hens at their business, ) and I was amazed when I came to realise that the girls were actually leading him to the feeding troughs when he was hungry and thirsty, they let him feed and drink first then they ate and drank for themselves. A wonderful altruistic gesture. Don’t let anyone say that hens are dim, they are intelligent in their way, and so quirky and characterful too. Dear old Cock-a-leekie even sired some more chicks, so the girls must have led him to their bed of straw too! He died a ripe old age, a veteran combatant in his retirement pen, his two companions staying close right to the end. XxL

      • Another uplifting story. I think you need to transfer this lovely account of your battle-blinded cockerel to the main body of your blog, together with some images. (I think you would illustrate it beautifully.)

        The last time we were with you and Graham at Lamonzie Montastruc, I recall no chickens. Had there been any I’m quite sure I would have been out there feeding and making friends with them. Perhaps you don’t always keep them. Our neighbours’ hens next door are laying well now, and we’ve stated receiving occasional boxes of eggs which are so much more delicious that the ones from the shops. I’d keep chickens myself… I’ve always wanted to… but for the fact that I’d be worried about bothering anyone with the care of them at the times we’re away.

        Sending love, and extra special thanks for the tale of Cock-a-leekie, the cockerel named for a soup that he would never end up as! XXX

      • Yes it would make a wonderful illustrated story, another project to add to a long list! We kept hens until 1999, the year of the hen holocaust. They used to run free and had become many in number, because over the years the girls would often disappear for a couple of weeks, then arrive out of nowhere leading a string of baby chicks. It got so unmanageable that Graham had to construct a fence to keep them from wandering too far, and so that we could benefit by having the eggs, which was why we kept them after all. One problem we had was because we did not cull, the number of cockerels rose, (hence the tale of Cock-a-leekie) the morning chorus became quite deafening. As it happened the problem was resolved by the cruelty of nature itself. A pine martin got into pen, and no matter how we blocked holes, or ran the dogs around the fence perimeter, gradually throughout that summer he used our hen run as though it were a supermarket. Eventually, come autumn, the hen population was depleted entirely, except for Cock-a-leekie and wives, who were near the house. This whole scenario, as it turned out, was serendipitous, coinciding as it did with us having to work away for several months, thus we did not have to worry about neighbours tending them for us. I would love to keep hens again, but Graham does not, so we are henless, but have a flower garden instead. (Yes it’s one or the other!); it also means we have snakes, for they say here if you keep hens you never have snakes. Now I have remembered all that it’s got me itching to keep hens again…..I must start nagging!xxL

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