Saturday, February 19, 2011
The sparrowhawk just whooshed around the bird table again. I'm fairly sure it was a female, big and slate grey, although according to my bird book it's the smaller male that usually takes tits and finches. That's the second time this week. It happened so fast it was difficult to see if she got anything.
I think she left empty-clawed when she called on Tuesday - walking up the track with the dogs a while later there was a pile of feathers on the verge that looked freshly plucked. I'm pretty sure it was the remains of a woodcock - the feathers are distinctive, and its the only bird we regularly get around here with this type of stripe.
The woodcock is one of those birds with astonishing camouflage. I see them at dusk flying up from the edge of the forestry. They look very angular in flight, and make a big clattery fuss of it, zigzagging away.
Here's a photo of one in a pile of leaves. You could tread on it if it kept quite still.
I called at the Irish Seed Savers Association yesterday to pick up my order of seeds and potatoes - members can pick five packets of seeds and one sowing of potatoes. I'm trying some new varieties this year. There's an old rare heritage parsnip called Bedford Monarch, a turnip (Tipperary Turnip), Mexican Midget tomato, which doesn't sound local, and Yerevan Parsley which definitely isn't local. It says on the packet that the original seeds were brought back from an Armenian market place.
The potatoes are first earlies and are an old English variety - Sharpe's Express. I also got some garlic, one I've had before called Lautrec. A few years ago I bought a selection of garlics from the Isle of Wight Garlic Farm, and this was one of theirs that did well. Last year, however, it was poor, so I needed to replace my stock. Apparently French gourmands class it as the best tasting of all French garlic, and they should know. Not sure why the Seed Savers have it though, as it's widely available.
The Seed Savers buildings and gardens are in the middle of the Clare countryside just outside Scarriff, accessed by a tiny lane. As I was leaving the building in the lashing rain there was a Rolls Royce stopped outside the door (not parked in the designated parking place note). It was an 08 Dublin registration, and seemed full of people peering out through the wetness. Back in my car I sat and ate my occasional addiction - a dark chocolate-covered marzipan bar - while waiting for the reappearance of the car. I was intrigued. What could it be doing in a place like this?
It didn't reappear, so it wasn't one of those mistaken drives around the countryside looking for something to do. Had it not been lashing I'd have gone back up to be nosey.