rewilding

In previous blog posts I’ve written that we’ve been granted a license to take a wild sparrowhawk chick from a nest this spring for the purpose of falconry. Of course to take a chick you need a nest first and searching for a nest of one of the most illusive birds of prey in Europe is a difficult task. We’ve looked for signs and clues in several places, searching mostly mixed woodland around where we live and work.

Often when searching for the signs of sparrowhawks deep in the woods we find remains of plucked birds – their bones, beaks, and feathers.

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Sometimes we are lucky and we find a whole skull too.

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These trophies are hard won and every our outing is comparable to detective’s work – looking for small feathers on mossy ground in a large woodland isn’t an easy task. Feathers are usually arranged on a plucking post or several plucking posts – usually a stump of a fallen tree trunk where a musket, a male sparrowhawk, plucks small birds before taking them to feed his female.

Can you spot a plucking post here?

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Finding feathers, at least in theory, means there might be a nest nearby. But sparrowhawk’s rituals are complex, their habits are not rigid, they don’t obey the written text in the books about falconry.

But the act of searching has an enormous pleasure for me. The place comes into clear focus as I near the ground and as I observe the details up close.

I often end up crawling on my knees through densely planted sitka spruce to get to some beautiful clearing with promising stumps I’d spotted earlier. I scan every inch through my imaginary “feather goggles” as I go along. Sometimes I find spar’s castings, a mass of feathers that she regurgitates before she kills and plucks another blackbird.

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The intensity of search means it’s not always easy to mentally “come back” from the land of sparrowhawks, to fully “exit” the woods. I feel like part of me remains in the woods when I leave. A part of me goes wild.

But after every outing we also bring nature home indoors and into our human world – we return with feathers, skulls, bones, photographs, audio recordings, and of course stories which we document in the Wild Take podcast.

The boundaries between our human and non-human worlds become less pronounced as we progress in our search. “Rewilding… is about resisting the urge to control nature and allowing it to find its own way”, writes George Monbiot in FeralI feel that nature has certainly found its way into our lives and our lives are becoming more connected to this illusive and almost mythical sparrowhawk we are seeking from the wild.

x.

 

 

 

 

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spring has arrived

It’s hard to write something meaningful when you have this view in front of you.

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We’ve enjoyed some epic weather here in the west of Ireland. There has been not a drop of rain, no, not even a little. The smell of rot and damp in the air are gone and there is a foreign smell of fragrant grasses and new vegetation all around. Tiny lambs in the fields sleep under the hot welcoming sun. Spring is officially here!

Our  colleagues took advantage of this heat wave and took five hawks up to the mountains nearby to enjoy the views and to let birds stretch their wings.

Here is Maya and Inagh

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It was so beautiful to see the birds soar and play in the wind.

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It’s wonderful to be alive this time of year. I’ve never felt spring’s presence as strongly as I do this year, perhaps this is because we spend most of our days outdoors.

There are birds visible everywhere at the moment, giant rookeries have sprang up almost overnight with some nests precariously hanging above country roads. I’ve seen rooks carrying big sticks and food to their nests to their mates who are already patiently sitting on eggs. There are groups of overexcited starlings beatboxing on every roof, fat pigeons are noisily courting each other. And even seagulls are singing in large gangs in the fields nearby rising and landing as they perform their sun salutations each morning.

There is nowhere to hide from sudden chatter and noise, from this shifting, rushing, moving, and living.

We’ve been also moving and exploring a lot these past few weeks on foot and on our canoe.

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The weather is of course going to change soon, but I am so grateful that we’ve all had a break from storms, wind, and rain. That we’ve been able to shake winter off and had a chance to just be outside and play under the hot smiling sun.

Happy spring!

x.

top-down jumpers

When I knit, I am impatient, messy and passionate. I want to try my clothes on frequently as I knit them to check the progress and perhaps to reassure myself because I am not a confident knitter yet. Unfortunately traditional jumper construction – from the bottom edge up to the neckline does not allow me to try and adjust things, instead it leaves me with bits of the garment. Somehow I am supposed to just fill in the missing parts and imagine how it will all fit together in harmony.

Hm.. not sure about this…

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It is frustrating..

I’ve been knitting Kate Davies’ Warriston jumper for several weeks now using Wendy Traditional Aran Yarn which my mother-in-law gave me last Christmas. It’s a sturdy lovely yarn and I love the pattern too. I had to use different size needles though to achieve the correct gauge. And really for me the gauge is a constant source of anxiety because, like I said, I am a messy knitter. I want to say that I’ve been enjoying knitting Warriston, but I can’t and this isn’t any fault of Kate’s. It’s just knitting a jumper from the bottom edge up to the neck seems illogical and unintuitive to me.

This is possibly because when I decided to learn to knit jumpers I bought a brilliant book by Barbara G. Walker called Knitting from the TopIf you are thinking of designing your own knitwear someday this book is inspiring and empowering. Walker takes you through the process of designing knitwear that actually fits. Top-down construction allows you to try your garment on at any moment and to make the necessary adjustments as you go along. You can, if you like adjust garment’s length, include shaping where necessary, or correct mistakes. Top-down construction makes knitting flexible, it allows you to play with the garment – it gives you freedom that bottom-up construction method does not. Knitting from the bottom up gives you one chance at making the garment that works.

There are many amazing knitters who have embraced knitting from the top – like Karen Templer from Fringe Association who wrote several blog posts on how to design a raglan pullover. And Ann Budd’s Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters is an amazing source of information for a budding designer.

But I feel that top-down construction is still something unorthodox, slightly odd, maybe even embarrassing because it is untraditional. Is it because there is a myth that knitting from the top is difficult?

To me, there is something so lovely about slowly adding to the whole jumper, seeing it grow and take shape. It seems so much more intuitive and natural than having a garment in bits and pieces that need to be put together. But for now I will continue knitting my Warriston and needles crossed it’ll fit me in the end.