Once in a Blue Moon is Tonight!

Tonight sees that rare occurrence, a second Full Moon within one month – a Blue Moon! Being August, it should also be a HUGE moon when it rises above the horizon…

The last Blue Moon that I saw was December 31st 2009. As one year shifted to another, that Blue Moon weaved its way across cold winter skies.

I was in Ireland at the time. I watched it before going to bed. Then I watched it when I woke up. It was still in the sky at 9.00am, heading for the range of hills that I can see from my kitchen.

I watched it dip lower..

And lower…

And lower…

Until eventually it disappeared…

..from sight.

But the Magic wasn’t over.

A few hours later the sun broke through, revealing a dusting of snow on the distant mountains (snow in Southern Ireland is as rare as a Blue Moon – some people might say sunshine is too!)

It was New Year’s Day 2010 and a Blue Moon had given way to Sunshine and Snowfall. Pure Magic. The year that followed proved to be just as special. It was the year I finished writing Tilly’s first adventure!

Best wishes – Essi

Nature Close-Ups: Ferns

Over the last few weeks, the ferns and brackens have been unfolding their beautiful “golden” spirals.

Here is one in the early stages.

Close-up, the stems are like dragons.

They grow in groups along the hedgerows, like strange creatures with party-blowers.

Whenever I see them, I’m always amazed at the intricacy of nature’s designs.

🙂

Fantastic Foxes – Part 3

I continued to sit quietly with my back propped against a mossy Beech tree, whilst the vixen cub snoozed.

A short while later a bold rabbit came lolloping through the leaf-strewn wood. I watched it, wondering why on earth it would come so close to the foxes.

The young vixen sat up, ears pricked and eyes bright.

Down the bank she came, her hunting instincts up.

What happened next was very funny.

The cub ran as fast as she could towards the rabbit, but when she was about ten feet from it, she stopped. “What do I do now?” she seemed to wondering. At little more than half its size, she had no hope of catching it!

The rabbit knew this too. It stared rather disdainfully at the cub for a few seconds. Then it stamped a hind foot and was off into the undergrowth. At this the young vixen ran forwards again…

…and started to hunt through the leaves (as though the rabbit had somehow hidden itself in them).

Far safer to play at catching something imaginary than to attempt the real thing!

Eventually she worked her way right round the tree I was leaning against, popping her head out of the far side.

For a moment we looked at eachother. I don’t think she really knew what I was, but she was downwind of me now. Catching my scent, she turned and made her way back the way she had come.

Off up the bank…

…into the safety of her Earth.

And that was the last I saw of her (for that day).

Suddenly I was alone again on the old path through the woods, listening to the Beech trees whispering, my body filled with that uniquely-rich gratitude that comes when nature shares her secrets with us.

Fantastic Foxes – Part 2

I sat for a while with my back propped against the mossy trunk of a large Beech tree. My heart was still thumping from watching the two cubs playing in the sun, when a movement to my left caught my eye.

This is what I saw.

Another cub, moving from left to right, almost in the centre of the picture. Isn’t it amazing how camouflaged they are, given their fur is such bright orange when you see them close-up?

This one was even smaller than the others, a vixen cub. She made her way up one of the many runnels in the bank, paths made smooth by the passage of foxes and badgers over the years, but when she went into the Earth there was a scuffle and a yipping: the boys obviously did not want her to join them.

Seconds later she reappeared, made her way down the bank and found a sunny patch to sit in. If you look hard, you can see her right in the middle of this picture, in profile.

She soon curled up to have a sleep.

All I could see was one of her ears, sticking up the far side of a root.

I was downwind so I knew she could not scent me. Moving as slowly as I could, I shuffled towards her, using the palms of my hands to lift my weight off the ground whilst I inched forward.

Bit by bit I got closer…

And closer…

Until I was only a few feet away.

There was a big smile on my face as I watched this beautiful wild animal, fast asleep, entirely unaware of my presence.

Let’s leave her there for now, dreaming her foxy dreams!

Nature Close-Ups: Dandelions

I’m happiest when I’m outside, exploring. The weather has been extraordinarily wet here recently, but I still make sure I get out for at least a part of every day to immerse myself in the wonders of the natural world.

I love to nose around, looking at things close-up, imagining what it might be like to live as a tiny bug, a bird, or flower. With this in mind, I thought I’d do some simple posts to give you a snapshot of some of the things growing in my neck of the woods. Let’s start with this dandelion, its yellow petals now transformed into a miniature snow-ball.

When I was small, we used to play the game with old flower heads like this one, blowing them to see what the time was (however many puffs it took to blow off all the seeds, that would tell you time!).

Another variant, when we got older, was “She loves me! She loves me not!” After each phrase we’d blow at the seeds. If the last seeds blew away on “She loves me!” all was well in our romantic endeavours, but if they blew away on “She loves me not”….well, I don’t suppose we took much notice! (Of course, it was easy to rig this game, giving an extra-strong puff when we wanted to!)

I don’t think I’ve ever stopped to examine a dandelion-head really closely until now. Have a look at this. The umbrellas at the end of each seed-stalk look a bit like amoebas…

Or should that be brain cells?

Or universes?

“As above, so below…”

In the flowers where some of the seeds have already blown away, you can see how amazingly each one is constructed, with their miniature parachutes on the outside…

And their barbed seed-heads sticking to the pin-cushion at the centre.

The barbs are for catching onto passers-by, so that the plant does not rely solely on the wind to disperse its seeds.

With this combination of aerodynamic design and adhesive seed-heads, it is not surprising that the fields and hedgerows around here are simply filled with dandelions!

The leaves of the dandelion make wonderful food for rabbits and the root can be ground into a powder for use in a decoction that will help urinary infection. A word of caution, though. If you are going to pick the flowers, wear gloves. The juices are very astringent and can cause a nasty rash!

If you like exploring nature, I think you’ll enjoy my book Watchers, which is the first in a series for both children (12+) and adults. Have a look at some of the 5-star reviews on amazon and see what you think!

Paperback amazon.co.uk      Paperback amazon.com

Kindle: amazon.co.uk         Kindle: amazon.com

Until next time,

Best wishes, Essi.

The Answer to the Riddle…

In my last post I asked you to identify this creature, which I saw feeding on the catkins of a Willow last week:

The correct answer was…

…a Peacock Butterfly!

I watched it for some time as it moved from catkin…

…to catkin.

Then it flew to the ground at my feet and perched on an old oak leaf in the grass, sunning itself for a while before flying away again.

Congratulations (and a signed copy of Tilly) go to Peapod Pixie, who was first to correctly identify it!