February Review: Stormy but sweet

This is how February went: snowdrops, muddy puddles, blackbird, pheasant, snowdrops.  All with a background of wind.

Outside, February was stormy.  Dudley! Eunice! Franklin!  More trees down, more powercuts.  We found a whole nest, perfectly formed and still intact, on the ground.  Beautifully arranged sticks and little fluffy white feathers.  It must have been last year’s safe-place for a little brood.

But the wheels of spring have been set in motion and a little bit of wind can’t stop them.  

Exploring nature in February with Piglet has been largely about Snowdrop Hunting.  We take our hunting very seriously and we are excellent at it.  We started on the 2nd of February with a snowdrop hunt at the Hirsel Estate near Coldstream.  Days out like that with the Piglet are my favourite.  It is just me and him, exploring together, no rushing or achieving.  That afternoon involved a long chat with a swan, an al fresco nappy change and a packet of Pom Bears under a beautiful big tree, and triumphant yells of SNOWDROP every time a fresh patch was discovered.  Days like that are companionable, funny and total bliss.  The further I get through this pregnancy the more I worry about not having that one-to-one time with my boy any more.  I was so sure he would benefit from having a sibling, but now that it is close to being the reality I worry that I have ruined his life.  I’ll have to divide my attention between two.  I am really excited to meet this baby, but I also feel like I’m on a slippery slide that I can’t get off, and the slide leads to chaos for my Piglet.  I think these are very normal second-baby feelings, though, from what my friends tell me!

Anyway, back to the snowdrops.  I was surprised by how many snowdrops were out already at the very start of February.  I think Peak Snowdrop was early this year (it has been a warm winter, overall).  We finished off our snowdrop hunting month at the Floors Castle snowdrop festival.  There, carpets of snowdrops are interspersed with winter aconites, crocuses and even a few daffodils. We watched a worm emerge from the soil and burrow down again (all while Pig sat on his potty on the grass: toilet training has begun!!).  Fresh piles of molehills are abundant.  Piglet declared: Moles live underground!  A nice moment for me as I’m never very sure he’s listening to my wildlife chatter.  

Earlier that day, we’d been doing the postal dispatch (thank you for your orders!) in Melrose and had stopped for a snack on the bench outside the church.  In the ten minutes that we sat there in the sunshine, we saw lots of different birds foraging for insects on the grass and in the trees, including a mistle thrush, male bullfinch, and nuthatches.  I’ve been noticing the bird song getting louder as the month progresses.  Male blackbirds are one of the first to start singing in the year.  The youngest males start singing first.  They have languid songs of six seconds or so (with a similar length pause in between).  Even as bitterly cold, windy days tip the balance between life and death for birds, the need to start singing to defend territory and attract a mate requires their energy.  February is a fickle month, taking with one hand and giving with the other.

One last thought about snowdrop hunting: it is bliss.  Those delicate little beauties are such a joyful sight.  They amaze me with their hardiness and hopefulness.  The last week has brought such sad, grim news from Russia and Ukraine.  Going out into the woods to look for snowdrops is an escape from all the bad in the world.  But it makes me so sad that for the people of Ukraine, as with countless other countries round the world, there’s no time-off from the reality of the situation.  It is unfathomable to imagine the shock of suddenly being thrust into a war.  Sometimes, when I look at little snowdrops, three petals outside, three petals inside, I wish I wasn’t a human.  Or I wish that humans were better at just being and not interfering.  

I’ll end on a cheerier note: I want to introduce you to Dennis the Pheasant!  He’s our garden pheasant.  He spends a fair amount of time looking through our french windows.  We know it is him because he doesn’t have the classic white collar that most male pheasants have.  I think he’d like to live with us.  I’d share my snacks with Dennis.  He’s been a lovely shiny, glamorous addition to our February. 

Snowdrop Sketches by Hannah Longmuir
Dennis Pheasant sketch Hannah Longmuir

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