Sky Dancing

Raven Dance Inuit Print. Cape Dorset

It is still too cold to do any gardening that does not involve some fairly vigorous exercise – digging up creeping buttercup (pernicious weed and bane of my life) fits the bill. Stretching to ease my aching back it is easy to spend a few minutes watching the ravens tumble and roll their hoarse cronk grating against the bubbling call of the curlews.
Our garden bird list would be very short if we included only the species which actually visit the garden, so to make life more interesting we include those which we can see from within the garden. There is no robin to solicit a grub while I dig, blackbirds are infrequent visitors and I’m more likely to see a redwing than a song thrush. I do have a resident pair of wrens, I hear them occasionally but they dwell within the garden walls and creep around as quietly as wee brown mice.
Our winter waders (shorebirds) are still around – godwits and oystercatchers feeding on the tide edge, sanderling scurrying about like clockwork toys with turnstone feeding amongst the wrack. The glaucous gulls – pure white arctic birds as pale as ghosts still haunt the shore where a few great northern divers still linger.
The change in the seasons are always heralded by the birds. In the spring it is the gannets returning to their breeding colonies on St. Kilda which indicate the rising of the sap. When the sun makes an appearance this is the cue for the lapwings to begin sky dancing. With their broad wings they are like giant butterflies as they wheel transcribing iridescent arcs in the sky and the mournful peeee-wit call echoes in circles. What lady could resist such an invitation.

Birds Over the Sun, a stencil by Kenojuak Ashevak. Canadian Museum of Civilization

There is no dawn chorus to herald the spring – I know that winter is drawing to a close when the whooper swans leave, setting course across the sea for Iceland. I never understood why the collective name for swans is a herd,  it does not begin to convey the stark elegance of a phalanx of swans flying over the sea against a wintry sky. I will leave you with this image as I look out over a stormy sky and wind tossed waves and recommend that you listen to the last movement of Sibelius’ 5th symphony ( inspired by the sight of sixteen swans taking flight over his Järvenpää villa).

21 thoughts on “Sky Dancing

  1. The bird stencil is beautiful – full of spirit. Your posts always make me feel like I’ve been to visit you in person… so thank you for saving me the walk 🙂

    • You are always very welcome to come and lean on my garden wall and share the view.
      I became fascinated by Inuit art after an all too brief spell of working for the Canadian Wildlife Service in the 1970s. I think it’s the intimate inter-relationship between animals, culture and life which gives the art its strength and meaning. I also find the economy of line and deceptive simplicity very appealing.

  2. Nell Jean

    Interesting post.
    I think you should go back to Blotanical and re-enter your blog. I can’t find that it shows up anywhere. Do you have an assigned mentor?
    If Blotanical’s sign up page won’t let you enter as a brand-new blog, try ‘add an additional blog’ as the original one seems to be invisible.

  3. Pen

    What a beautiful and poetic post; I can almost close my eyes and see the birds.

    • Thank you – I’ll introduce you to more of my feathered companions when they arrive from warmer climes

  4. Your written images translated beautifully to visuals in my mind! Thank you for sharing them. I’m looking forward to hearing more about the beautiful birds you see in and from your gardens.

  5. Simply beautiful!

  6. islandthreads

    beautiful description Christine, did you know some of the west coast Canadian original people say when the Raven comes to Earth they are the sprits of our ancestors visiting us, I love that idea,
    I am lucky as I get garden birds as well as the larger non garden variety, the lapwing, red shank and sometimes oyster catchernest in the fields across the burn/river to me, the first time I saw turnstones was at Great Bernaray YH, we didn’t know their name but when I looked them up it was sooo obvious, you will see more of the beach comers as you can see the beach from your garden,
    I hope you have had a sunny Sunday as we have though there is a chill, Frances

    • Hi Frances, sorry for the delay, I’ve been making the best of the sunshine – need not tell you what it’s like today! I love the native North American and Inuit stories, a wonderful mix of age old spirituality and nature.

  7. Hello Christine & Welcome to the Blotanical Community – Bloggers come and go, but my gut feeling is that you’re in for the long haul.
    If only I could be as brave as you to follow your dream. Until I’m in a position to escape from my life in suburbia, I’ll read your blog instead.

    • Hello, thanks for the welcome and dropping by. Living by the sea, not necessaril on an island on the edge of the North Atlantic, was my dream. I’m afraid there was nothing very brave about it, more impulsive and foolhardy, but that’s what happens when you fall in love! However, when the chance comes along, don’t hesitate do it.

  8. I love vigorous gardening. Yesterday I was doing so much digging I didn’t need a sweater, or even a long-sleeved shirt. It always surprises me when I stop for a few minutes and begin to get cold.
    I’ll check if our library has the symphony you recommended, maybe it will make up for the fact that the closest thing we have to a soaring phalanx of swans are honking Canadian geese. 🙂

    • Hi, No gardening here for a whole we’re stuck in a big depression but even the wind and rain didn’t discourage the Sky Dancers. I suppose even a skein of CGs could have a hint of romance, anyway try Sibelius you might make a musical discovery. I was introduced to blue grass last year – what a revelation!

  9. I came to you via beangenie and am so pleased to have found you. Gardening in a gale strikes a chord for me, living a long way up a hill in Wales. We have birds here of all descriptions but I certainly include the buzzards and the ravens in my sense of those who live here although they never set foot. They make shapes overhead are and so in my count of residents. Nuthatches and swallows (soon, soon) and woodpeckers do make landing.

    • Hello, thank you for peering over the garden wall. Scottish islands have a great deal in common with bleak Welsh hillsides so we share both gardening problems and delights. No trees so no nuthatches but we have swallows passing by on migration and a few that linger. We had our first pied wagtail last week and the wheatears won’t be far behind, so spring is definitely on its way.

  10. I’ve been remiss in not visiting, and now that I have I’ll be back regularly. Lovely words and photos! The harsh and beautiful desolation of your croft and land–I understand the attraction, as I strive with and against nature also. I can well imagine swiping salt from the window to stand with tea and just stare. Have you any photos of your eco-house? I would love to see. Best, Calvin

    • Hi Calvin, thank you for visiting. I’ve been galvanting on the mainland so sorry I missed you. I’ll be in touch and mail you some photos, but first I need to catch up on your blog, so I’ll drop by later.

  11. I just came across your Blog this afternoon. When you wrote about the birds I must say that here on the shores of Lake Michigan the gardens are along the migratory route for thousands of birds moving in Spring from South and Central American up into Canada then back in the Fall. There are so many birds, so very many everyday when I watch form the gardens. I have birds nesting here than come all the way from Argentina. It really is wonderful. I post lots of photos of the flowers and the lake, but not too many of the birds, except the Bald Eagles that are here everyday. You might enjoy some past postings from the archives of these gardens. the web site is not want lists as Word press but rather:

    • Hello, thank you for visiting. We have a small number of birds passing up or down our piece of coast on their way to and from the breeding grounds in the arctic and of course some which stay either to breed or winter, however nothing like the passage you get along the Great Lakes. Sorry no photographs of birds, Himself only photographs plants, bugs and fungi and my effords with my small compact camera are lamentable.
      Your photographs were more than accomplished and beautiful with your poems.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.