Sunday, 22 June 2014

'They have flown away' - birdwatching in June and W.B. Yeats

One of my greatest pleasures this springtime has been watching the birds on the peanut feeder which hangs from the washing line outside the kitchen window.  I've blogged about this before and included several blurry photos of rarer visitors such as the nuthatch and the woodpecker.  The one above was taken on the 20th May.  But when I returned from my trip to Ireland at the beginning of June, these birds seemed to have disappeared and now there are just a few blue tits.

I was a bit fed up about this and had various theories, blaming husband who hadn't refilled the feeder when we were away or poorer quality peanuts. Or a particularly vicious magpie..  I googled it too and apparently it's common for birds to visit feeders less often in June.  Something to do with them moulting or needing to find food with a higher moisture content for chicks or the availability of other sources of food - the slugs are rampant this year.

Whatever - they have gone.  And this has added to my general feeling of melancholy at present.  Looking back I can see this is obvious from my last few blog posts.  I think my readers may be getting fed up with my rather self-indulgent and nostalgic blog posts too as, after a spate of increased activity, comments are drying up again.  They too have flown away.

In Northern Ireland as children we'd go the lough to watch the swans.  In Ballyronan, even before the marina was built, we'd go to The Quay, a dilapidated landing point on the lough, to watch the swans.  I still do, though am wary of them remembering tales my granda told about how they can break an arm with their wings.  I cringe when I see children feed the swans up close these days at the marina, preferring to view them from a safe distance.

Swans in Ballyronan.  Photo by Kate.

There's a poem about swans which keeps going through my head at present and it kind of captures my mood.  Wrong time of year for it, but here it is anyway.  It's beautiful and very sad.

The Wild Swans at Coole

The trees are in their autumn beauty,   
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water   
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones   
Are nine-and-fifty swans.

The nineteenth autumn has come upon me   
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings   
Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,   
And now my heart is sore.
All's changed since I, hearing at twilight,   
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,   
Trod with a lighter tread.

Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;   
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,   
Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water,   
Mysterious, beautiful;   
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake's edge or pool
Delight men's eyes when I awake some day   
To find they have flown away?

Update  This morning as I was writing, I glanced out of the window and the woodpecker was back.  Very symbolic!!! Need to get over myself: the longest day may have passed but it's still summer.



  1. I haven't flown away, I blame my blog feed for missing posts. I just got back from a "run" in the woodlands and enjoyed seeing many birds. We don't see many in the garden, two cats and four children must be to scary for the little creatures. I think I would like to sit in your English class, there is so much literature and poetry that I am not familiar with and you are making my world a bit bigger with every poem you share. x

  2. Thank you so much, Christina. You are a loyal follower. I'm impressed you've been running. My exercise regime is not exactly going to plan at present. Glad you are enjoying the poems. You should check out some Scottish ones too. I like Jackie Kay and Liz Lochhead. Even though I did a level German I don't think I've ever studied any German poetry. Think we did a play 'Maria Stuart but don't remember much.

  3. I enjoy watching the birds too although I stopped refilling the feeders a wee while ago when I spotted a RAT helping himself to the seeds. I plan to move them further from the house so that any unplanned visitors will also be further away. I've always loved swans - they remind me of the Children of Lir.
    There's nothing wrong with a little melancholy once it doesn't stop you finding joy in your life.
    I've been finding it hard to keep up with blogging of late, especially as I'm quite active on a photo-sharing site which demands uploading and commenting as well. Never enough time to do all the things I want to do, not to mention the things I have to do like tackling the ever-growing pile of ironing.

    1. Have had a few problems with squirrels but at least no rats, though grey squirrels aren't much better than rats with bushy tails! Thanks for your wise words - I'm feeling a bit more positive this week with some plans for the holidays

  4. I guess we just have to honor ourselves where we are at. If we can't do that, who will?! You will move through it to something else. Nothing stays static does it. It's all ebbs and flows. I'm sure you will flow into a sunny place in your own time. I think blogland is a little quieter in the summer. Take care, Heather X

  5. I wouldn't worry too much about the comments. People no longer comment on blogs as much as they use to and in ten years time when you re-read your blog what will interest you is what you wrote rather than the comments. It is impossible for me to feed the birds due to the squirrels in the garden. We have a pair of woodpeckers thought in the neighbourhood who come back every year. I hear them more than see them.