Big thank you from

The calendar says winter, but nature begs to disagree

by Paul Cormacain

THE calendar says that it is winter, and as I look out of the window I can see high flying seagulls making painfully slow progress against the wind. The wind is wintry, strong, relentless, unforgiving and cold.

All forms of life, including humans, have to wrap up or lie low, just for life to be a little more bearable. So far today all the humans I have seen have been well wrapped up. Apart from some high flying gulls there is not a sign of wild life. Yesterday we had spring in Finaghy! Pity the people who live anywhere else, or is that arrogant? Was there spring in your area yesterday? I hope so. This has happened quite a few days of late, with the calendar saying "winter" and the weather saying "spring".

Perhaps you have noticed that the birds are listening to the weather, rather than looking at the calendar. On quite a number of days lately I have heard the birds make music fit for members of the opposite sex, rather than music bemoaning the bad weather. They were in breeding mode! As any good bird book will tell you, the blackbird breeds from late March to July. This means that the lady and gent blackbird will start making eyes at each other from about February.

This year the blackbird courting song has been heard from about the beginning of December, apart from today, it has to be said. Today is winter.

The blackbird is one of our most enjoyable songsters, a major contributor to the dawn chorus, and one of the birds most likely to be heard in our suburban gardens.

Its changing ways over the last century and a half have meant that it has moved from the countryside, well, rather some of the birds have remained, and others have moved into towns.

So now the bird is as common in towns as anywhere else. So now we can enjoy the blackbird all year round, close at hand, and admire its beauty and singing prowess.

The blackbird is very popular in England. In that country they also have the benefit of the company of the nightingale, reputed to be one of the nicest of bird singers. But some English folk now feel the blackbird is an even nicer singer than the nightingale, a fact which perhaps we should try to hide from the blackbird. That way, he will try even harder!

So apart from today, the blackbirds are regaling humans with their sweet song. They are also regaling members of the opposite sex, and who knows, one of these years perhaps we shall hear the tinkle of tiny claws well before winter is out.

Then we will have to thank Mr Bush for ignoring the Kyoto Convention!

Went looking at the Lagan for waxwings during a recent spring day. I had heard that they had been sighted there, so thought it would be nice to see perhaps a large flock. In the past, I have only seen a few of these birds at a time, and that has not changed. But we did see and hear blackbirds. I suppose it was nice to hear them away from Finaghy.

On some trees at the Lagan we came across fungus. Now there are a number of fungi which grow on trees, and you can see them even in suburban gardens. This particular type I had not noticed for a number of years, (must have been in the wrong locality). They were quite striking.

The fungus is called ganoderma, and can be quite common in places. The growth comes out at right angles to the trunk of the tree. After some maturing, the bottom of the growth almost looks like a steel or aluminium shelf holding up the rest of the fungus.

It is semi-circular in shape. Sitting on this is the brown part of the fungus, about the same diameter as the base, and above this is slightly smaller layer. There may be a number of layers, each one smaller than the one below, and the effect is quite dramatic.

Once you have seen them, and identified them, you will surely notice them in future.

The ganoderma is quite difficult to describe, as you will note from the preceding paragraph. So perhaps you should treat yourself to a fungus book, then keep an eye open for them in the future.

Just sighted a few blackbirds in the garden, likewise wrens, blue tits, robins and chaffinches. None of them were singing, just going about the winter business of surviving. Oh, let there be spring in Finaghy tomorrow!

Ulster Star