Sunday, 23 January 2011

Small Pleasures

A beautiful sunrise on a frosty morning this week.037

Long tailed tits in the garden. I’ve seen them in the woods behind the house but this is the first time they have visited the garden. They’re tiny birds but full of character. They travel in family groups and constantly chirp and tweet to each other. A pleasure and privilege to see and hear in the garden.

lttits .

The RSPB site describes long tailed tits as little balls on sticks, but I have never seen a bird look more like a feathered ball than this goldcrest. He was scurrying up and down some conifers behind the house. Goldcrests compete with firecrests for the title of Britain’s smallest bird, neither of them weighs more than the equivalent of five paper clips.



This little fellow had fluffed his feathers out until he looked like a puffer fish but he wasn’t sick, just cold. It’s difficult to keep warm when you’re so small. It had been a freezing night and there were still patches of ice in the woods were the sun couldn’t penetrate. I know he wasn’t sick because he was so active, he bounced about the tree like a hyperactive ping-pong ball. I took 23 shots and he was only vaguely in focus in three of them, in the others he was either a blur or a handful of tail feathers disappearing into the greenery.



I have lots of photos of birds bottoms, they are the most uncooperative subjects. Another tiny bird I regularly see, who refuses to stay still is the wren. He is constantly on the move, searching for insects, and ignores all my pleas to pose for the camera. wren

But bird bottoms are better than no bottoms. What a pleasure to know these three tiny species, who are so vulnerable to prolonged cold weather, all survived the harsh December. Temperatures are still regularly sinking below zero at night, but there’s a lift in the air during the day heralding Spring. The birds have started to sing their hearts out, competing for territory, the evenings are lighter and the catkins are out. Spring is coming.075

And I have used the last of 2010’s vegetables. This pumpkin has been sitting in the dining room since October while I wondered what to do with it, never having grown pumpkins before. I ran out of veg this week and decided to try pumpkin soup. YUM. So simple, so low in calories and so good. I softened some onions in fry lite (I’m on a diet so olive oil is not allowed but would be better) bunged in some chicken stock (from a bottle), hot water and the pumpkin in large chunks, a hefty pinch of nutmeg and masses of fresh ground pepper. Cooked until the pumpkin was soft (~30 mins) and then whizzed the whole thing with a hand zapper. It had a luxurious, smooth, creamy texture without the calories of added cream. A perfectly pleasurable Winter soup. If I had another pumpkin I think it would use a mix of cumin and chilli powder rather than nutmeg. I will definitely be growing more pumpkins this year to experiment with the other spices.



  1. Make us wonder how birds survive through winter with the same feather.... we have to wear coats and centrally heated house to live through.

  2. Hallo Bangchik, how nice to see you here. I do wonder how the birds survive because here on the West coast we should have mild, wet winters, the weeks of prolonged snow and freeze are unusual. I know large number of wrens will roost huddled together in old nests to conserve heat and wonder whether goldcrests and the long tailed tits can do the same thing.