“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” quoth the poet. If I didn’t know that John Keats died in 1821, then I might have thought he had joined us on our Birdy Group Outing yesterday.
Okay, I had better come clean, I did have to google the exact date of John Keats’ death but then it is important that that the Daily Blog is 100% correct when it attempts to
be educational - and besides, googling turned out to have a part to play in our monthly Ramble With Birds.
It was, indeed, a mellow morning yesterday, warm enough
not to need the sweaters which most of us had thought to pack in our rucksacks for this, our first Birdy Group meet-up of the new U3A year. There was mist, too, on the horizon - though not the thick sea fret which greeted us on our last visit to Honeysuckle
Lane earlier in the year. At strategic points during our pleasant amble we could see the pointed gables of the Butlin’s Pavilion and, beyond it, the Isle of Wight.
It was the sheer fruitfulness that gave out an unmistakable Autumnal feeling - trees and hedgerows hung heavy with blackberries, blueberries and acorns while bright red berries added splashes of colour along the way. Butterflies flitted here and there,
a squirrel dashed between the trees, a rabbit stopped to look at us as we trooped past.
Near the beginning of our walk we came across Nancy’s Seat,
erected in memory of actress Nancy Price. We have seen the bench before; on at least one occasion we grouped ourselves on and behind it to capture a photograph of our Jolly Band of Birders. Yesterday we stopped awhile to muse on what we knew - or thought we
knew - about Nancy Price. Ron said he was pretty sure the honourable Nancy had something to do with the commissioning of the memorial in Beach House Park to the Warrior Birds, the brave carrier pigeons who lost their lives in active service during the
Second World War. That certainly rang a bell in my memory - and Ron proved the point later by sending a link for our leader, the Lovely Linda, to send on to us.
There are times when, as a group, we find our attention taken by the wild flowers - especially on those occasions when our feathered friends seem determined to hide from our view. Many of us declared that we used to be expert at identifying wild flowers
- and butterflies, for that matter - in our youth but, having all reached A Great Age, our knowledge of Flora and Fauna has become sadly depleted. Not to worry - Linda produced an excellent book of wild flowers which was usefully organised in sections
according to the colour of the flowers. I do like a guide book which understands that its readers need, well, guidance. Even though the identification of a particular wild flower which resembled a miniature snapdragon - toadflax - required the assistance of
Google, as it hadn’t made it into Linda’s Little Book of Flowers. As if it wasn’t bad enough having a name like toadflax, it was even more distressing to learn that its Latin name is linaria vulgaris. Worse still, when I did a little bit
of on-line checking on my return home, I was incensed to discover that in the first week of July this year it was awarded the unfortunate accolade of “Weed of the Week.” I feel like mounting a campaign to have toadflax formally recognised as a
Thing of Beauty.
I know what you are wondering - did yesterday’s Birdy Group actually spot any birds? Oh, ye of little faith - indeed we did. Among the highlights,
three buzzards prowling the air, and a red kite affording us a truly majestic aerial display. Plus a whole host of whitethroats thronging a tree full of presumably juicy berries - what a Merry Berry Feast they were having, as well as supplying a feast for
our eyes too.
We were, the Lovely Linda commented later, a “small but joyful group.”
Indeed we were.