Thought For The Day

I’ve been watching Springwatch. Those baby chicks are just like my kids. Always got their mouths open, always wanting feeding.

I think I should have gone down the cuckoo route.

Dylan And The Nightingale

I’m behind with my Springwatch. So much so that it is now summer. I watched one of the episodes I recorded yesterday, and learned an amazing fact about the nightingale.

This bird, in an attempt to woo a female mate, chooses around 600 notes, and then combines them into about 250 phrases. From these it produces its song, and every time it sings, its song is different every single time.

Think about that: from the combination and variants open to them, every time these birds sing, they never repeat the same song. Each time they come up with something original.

The latest research seems to indicate that females select males on the quality of his song, because the nightingales that sing the best are the best providers of food for chicks. Ready to pull, they clear their throat and give it there all.

Never worked for me on Karaoke night.

Each year, this bird, that has its own favourite tree in Africa, returns to its own favourite tree in this country, resuming its unique repertoire of romance.

* * *

And so, Dylan.

He seems to polarise opinion, but I love him.

Today I returned to his album Desire. Two of my favourite songs of his are on this album: Hurricane, and Isis.  But, on listening to another song, Sara, I remembered reading a story somewhere about its recording.

Sara was his wife, to whom he was then estranged. She happened to visit the studio one evening when he was recording this album, and he performed that very song while she was there, the two of them looking at each other through the glass window that separated them. He, singing his ode, another ode, (he also wrote Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands about her),  for her, to her:

‘Sara, Sara,

Don’t ever leave me, don’t ever go’

She, overwhelmed and emotional, bowled over by something new.

Jacques Levy, who co-wrote many songs on Desire, recalled: ” . . . It was extraordinary. You could have heard a pin drop. She was absolutely stunned by it.”

Though Dylan could never be accused of having a repertoire of 600 notes, he was doing  exactly the same as the nightingale, exactly the same as the rest of us: singing our hearts out for a mate, afraid to be alone in this savage world.

 

 

I was unable to find a satisfactory video of the song, so here is a snippet for you to decide if you want to seek it out for yourself. In the meanwhile, the lyrics are below.

 

Sara

I laid on a dune I looked at the sky
When the children were babies and played on the beach
You came up behind me, I saw you go by
You were always so close and still within reach.

Sara, Sara
Whatever made you want to change your mind
Sara, Sara
So easy to look at, so hard to define.

I can still see them playing with their pails in the sand
They run to the water their buckets to fill
I can still see the shells falling out of their hands
As they follow each other back up the hill.

Sara, Sara
Sweet virgin angel, sweet love of my life
Sara, Sara
Radiant jewel, mystical wife.

Sleeping in the woods by a fire in the night
Drinking white rum in a Portugal bar
Them playing leapfrog and hearing about Snow White
You in the marketplace in Savanna-la-Mar.

Sara, Sara
It’s all so clear, I could never forget
Sara, Sara
Loving you is the one thing I’ll never regret.

I can still hear the sounds of those Methodist bells
I’d taken the cure and had just gotten through
Staying up for day in the Chelsea Hotel
Writing “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” for you.

Sara, Sara
Wherever we travel we’re never apart
Sara, Sara
Beautiful lady, so dear to my heart.
How did I meet you ? I don’t know
A messenger sent me in a tropical storm
You were there in the winter, moonlight on the snow
And on Lily Pond Lane when the weather was warm.

Sara, Sara
Scorpio Sphinx in a calico dress
Sara, Sara
You must forgive me my unworthiness.

Now the beach is deserted except for some kelp
And a piece of an old ship that lies on the shore
You always responded when I needed your help
You gimme a map and a key to your door.

Sara, Sara
Glamorous nymph with an arrow and bow
Sara, Sara
Don’t ever leave me, don’t ever go

 

 

Red In Tooth And Daw

It is that time of the year again when an attempt to vegetate in front of the television set may result in us being compelled to actually open the blinds and peer outside, maybe get out in the garden or, if we are truly touched by the adventurous spirit, get our boots on and  seek out the more scenic parts of our country.

To get involved with the outside world.

Yes, Springwatch is back on. This programme, and its sister programme Autumnwatch, is partly responsible for a public increase of interest in our indigenous wildlife. We have also recently had a shorter-run Winterwatch, with a promised Summerwatch too this year. So that covers just about everything then.

We are nine episodes in, with live cameras and twenty four hour web cams set up in a variety of locations around the British Isles to document many different species of our wildlife, showing how they have faired through the winter months and the struggle they face to breed and survive among a changing world and predation.

We have been treated to, among many others, ospreys and otters, finches and foxes, warblers and weasels, dippers and dolphins, buzzards and bees. We have marvelled at feats of endurance and display, persistence and guile.

And among all this impressive footage, who do you reckon have been the villains of the piece?

That’s right, the jackdaws.

There is a bird box set up in a barn, and two jackdaws have nested there, raising two chicks. The parents are doing a masterful job of mucking in and spreading the load. No single parent or free loader in this set-up.

The problem is when the two parents are off foraging for food. In their absence, two other adult jackdaws have been entering the nest box and going about the process of systematically attacking the defenceless chicks. Time after time, day after day, they have come in and merciless pecked at the two cawing chicks, as they huddle together in the corner trying to find some kind of protection. It only ceases when one or both parents return to eject the invaders from the box. The problem is that they need to go and find food for the young ones, and as soon as they do the deadly duo come back in and the whole sickening spectacle begins again.

Over and over.

Viewers throughout the country have been horrified, dropping their digestives into their cups of tea as they reach for their phones to tweet their disgust

The theory given is that these two intruders are lower down the..ahem..pecking order in the jackdaw hierarchy, and want the nest box for themselves to breed in. They have even been bringing in nesting material of their own. Talk about cheek.

The one thing going for the chicks is their size. They are close to fledgling. If they had been younger it would all have been over with by now. And they are beginning to fight back themselves. Like bullied kids the world over, they have their tipping point.

I know that wild life is just that-wild life. Red in tooth and claw. I mean we have recently seen a young meadow pipit taken by a grass snake as the rest scatter from the nest in a desperate attempt at survival. But at least that was quick. The young jackdaws are being subjected to constant, prolonged attacks.

Having a front row seat to witness this violent drama has caused me to  feel a little uncomfortable about the title of my blog. Do I really want it associated with such, well, animalistic thuggery?

And what would I change it to? What if I kept it along the wildlife line, but chose something nice, inoffensive, cute even?

What about a rabbit? Everybody loves rabbits. Rabbits are lovable. Cute? Check. Fluffy? Check. Not psychotic? Check.

Right then, I will have a blog name incorporating the word rabbit and something else, something that would not cause me to waiver after watching a single episode of Springwatch or Watership Down.

But before I could make that connection, a memory came to me. My Dad, saying very casually to my Mum:

“Rabbits sometimes mate with rats in the wild.”

I can’t for the life of me remember the context of that conversation, and I am convinced he was pulling her leg. But my Mum never ate rabbit again.

Now I have another vision. The horrific sight of those attacks on the poor, defenceless chicks has now been replaced by another, unwholesome image.

Rabbits mating with rats.

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That’s it. I’m sticking with jackdaws.