Stormy skies and cherry blossom
Winter is sweeping through the country again; a last hurrah against the encroaching spring. In the north the spring flowers are buried under snowdrifts, and my parents in Herefordshire had a day of snow to make the new lambs in the fields shiver. We haven’t had frost or snow here, just chilly grey dampness and a couple of spectacular rainstorms. One of them started with a sight that never fails to gladden my heart – bright sunshine illuminating the stormclouds rolling in. I don’t why it has that effect on me, but there’s something about seeing the brightness of sunlit trees against a threateningly dark sky that just gets me all excited. It must be the contrast of the colours and the imminent danger of getting soaked.
On this occasion there was no danger of that, since I was indoors, but it was a great opportunity to photograph the cherry tree that overhangs our garden. As I said in my last post, its blossom is one of the highlights of my garden year; the flowers are so generously crowded onto every branch, and it all looks so clean and fresh. I’m really pleased with a couple of these pictures – I love the contrast of that dark brooding sky behind the sunlit blossom. I played around with it in photoshop to see whether it would work as a black and white photograph. It didn’t, but I did like how it looked with just a smidgen of colour left in, so I’ve included that one here too.
Even though the weather’s a bit miserable the garden is full of colour. The ceanothus is cloaked in violet blue with sprinkles of yellow and the leaves of the fig tree are unfurling, with smooth green button buds of new figs at their base. In fact leaves are unfurling right, left and centre, wherever I look around me. Branches that were bare and brown a few days ago are suddenly cloaked in lime green fuzz, as though someone had been at them with a can of spray-paint.
The tadpoles have dispersed throughout the pond now, although the later developers are still clustered towards the deep end where the spawn was. There are thousands of them, and they are feeding voraciously on algae and vegetation. They don’t seem to have any awareness of predators; I watched them swarming all over the chaser dragonfly nymphs, seeming to be feeding on the debris with which the nymphs cover themselves. The nymphs must be absolutely stuffed, and feeling much the same way about tadpoles as I feel about turkey just after christmas dinner. I watched one for about ten minutes, sitting perfectly still while tadpoles nibbled him, nosed him, wriggled under his legs and rested on his back. Eventually, possibly out of sheer irritation, his formidable extendable jaw shot out and grabbed a hapless tadpole as it swam past his nose. The nymphs of dragon and damselflies have a specially adapted lower lip which forms a long hinged jaw known as a mask, with spiked mandibles on the end. It is folded under the head at rest, but the nymph can extend the mask at lightening speed to impale its prey and return it to the mouth. It’s hard to capture on camera (though I live in hope) because it’s so fast, but an amazing thing to see.