Monday, 3 March 2008

Spring approches... I hope

I am finally beginning to feel that spring is coming (although I think some parts of the UK are having what will - hopefully - be the last gasp of winter). Certainly, the aconites have been and gone, and the snowdrops are still with us. There were some magnificent displays of crocuses in Halifax this weekend (near where my wife's parents live). Unfortunately, I had no time to stop and photograph them thanks to rushing around to see the parents who are currently in two separate nursing homes.

Some early daffs are also about, and some of the early blossom is beginning to show. All of this is such a tonic after winter. Although February has allegedly been one of the sunniest on record, the short days and poor light can make for unproductive photography. Nevertheless, we are lucky to have some prime sites for snowdrops within easy reach. The image above was taken at Hedingham Castle in Essex, which must be one of the best displays of snowdrops imaginable.

I found they were surprisingly difficult to photograph well. The individual flowers are small of course, and either shooting single bunches (as above) or getting down low and shooting wide seem the best techniques. As the blooms are some distance apart, the "shoot low" technique is variable in success as well. I had hoped to enter their photography competition, but missed the deadline because of "domestic commitments".

We also visited the gardens of Easton Lodge, once the home of the Countess of Warwick, mistress of Edward VII, at Great Easton last week. These gardens are famed for their snowdrops, but we found them a little disappointing, especially when compared with Hedingham. However, the gardens overall are a magnificent ruin, slowly being restored as funding allows. There were masses of long-tailed tits high up in the trees and from far off, we spotted a lesser spotted woodpecker. No photos unfortunately, as the light was too poor and the distance too great, but a spot to return to when the weather improves.

One star attraction is a particularly vain peacock, who insisted on displaying to us on a garden bench.

The original of this image was way over the 8Mb limit, and I may have reduced it too much to fit it in. We couldn't persuade him to display, although the state of his feathers suggests he must be getting ready to do so. We must take some food next time.

And that's the best thing about spring: one can start looking forward to "next time" as something that will happen soon, rather than as a long-distant prospect. Hurray for that!