Life On The Park – January

Hazel Catkins

“Chill airs and wintry winds! My ear has grown familiar with your song; I hear it in the opening year, – I listen and it cheers me long.”

‘Woods in winter’ – Longfellow

It’s almost one year since we put our house on the market and our year of major transition began; if you’ve stepped in the door of our new home, ‘Rehoboth’, you will have heard the story of God’s provision and our overflowing gratitude for this place of space He has given us.

He named it Rehoboth, saying, “Now the LORD has given us room and we will flourish in the land.” Gen 26:22

Our 1930’s extended English semi-detached home is set right on a city park; as I write I can see the squirrel attempting entry into my bird feeders as the long-tailed tits look on from a nearby tree wishing him away. The trees are waving their bare tops into a dark wintry sky and children are beginning to make their way through the park to their homes after a day at school.

We’ve lived in this home three out of the four seasons of the year and we’re excited to see spring explode from our doorstep.

So, here marks the beginning of a twelve-part series; I want to take you on an exploration of Life On The Park where I’ll journal what we see, hear and experience each month of the year. Are you in?

January

(scroll down for the audio recording, listen whilst you read!)

The darkness can be pretty overwhelming; really, apparently most of us living here in the UK are majorly deficient in vitamin D and I can see why. We really don’t see the sun; oh sure it gets light, but for days on end as the light comes up the clouds entirely cover the wide open sky and it’s as grey as you imagine when reading about the ‘menacing moors’ in ‘Wuthering Heights’.

The sky-line across the park is layered with varying shades of grey, brown and slightly orange bare trees; apart from the handful of evergreens in my front garden the tree-line is a scattering of charcoal-like spindly statues.

The gulls fly low, gather most mornings to swoop and squawk over the nearest field. The rose-ringed parakeets have stayed the winter and make their presence known loudly at times; despite their tropical origin, the parakeets are fully able to cope with the cold British winters, especially in suburban parks where food supply is more reliable.

The river is full and flowing fast due to the winter rainfall; you can hardly see the stepping stones my children love to wade through when I have enough energy to deal with wet clothes or bedraggled children!

Over the first few days of January we were visited by the impact of ‘hurricane Eleanor’; I was awoken by what sounded like rocks being thrown at our window and wind howling through any crack it could find. As the hailstones thumped against our window, thunder and lightning exploded right above our home; the room lit up blue but within a few dramatic moments the storm moved across the park and on to better things!

On one afternoon walk last week I was delighted to find the hazel tree had a beautiful display of male catkins shaking in the wind for our pleasure; the pink, star-like females are soon to follow winning first place in our calendar of firsts!

Through the frost and fog the birds are daily making their way to our feeders; long-tailed tits, blue tits, great tits, sparrows, and robins frequent the feeders whilst Mr. and Mrs blackbird along with their friend the song thrush graze on the seed and fruit I scatter on the ground.

Long-tailed tit

The collared doves and pigeons clumsily gather in our back garden pecking at the remains of the day from the bird-table.

Our nature highlight for January, albeit gruesome, was our visit from a sparrowhawk whilst he devoured a small bird he obviously spotted on the Boden bird table. My children and I looked on from the school room window to see him pluck the bird bare then polished him off peck by peck. It wasn’t the most pleasant of sights but it was an incredible learning experience!

Sparrowhawk

Shoots are beginning to appear but their identity still remains a secret; rumour has it the snowdrops are about to make an appearance in the park – I’m yet to spot them but I’ll keep you posted.

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