Experiencing A Mumuration Of Starlings

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It’s a lovely sounding word isn’t it, murmuration? My favourite collective noun (although a ‘plump’ of moorhens is pretty perfect too) and also the most amazing natural display. At this point in February, it sometimes feels like it has been winter forever and that perhaps spring might not ever arrive. Persuading yourself away from the warm indoors/cosy sofa and outdoors is not always easy, but is so rewarding. Winter’s natural beauty isn’t always as obvious as simple summertime pleasures, but just takes a little more effort to get out there and enjoy it.

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But the sun is still here, and the clear winter skies are stunning…even if multiple layers of thermal clothing are required to get outside and enjoy them! I am definitely not a hardy outdoorsy type person; I suspect my body’s circulation system is based more on a reptile than a mammal; I’m only truly warm having soaked up some warm sunshine for a few hours!

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Having visited RSPB Otmoor near Oxford to see the starling mumurations last year, I had to see this amazing display again. I waited weeks for good weather and a Sunday to happen simulataeously, and it was worth the wait. After walking a mile or two through the nature reserve I reached the reed beds where the starlings land to roost each evening. And was just in time; whilst the birds were roosting further away than last time I had seen them, the murmurations could still be seen in the far distance. Thanks to the super zoom lens I was just about able to capture some of their sky patterns.

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It was so incredibly peaceful, standing quietly with a small group of people all gathered for the same reason. Everyone wrapped up warm for the freezing cold, some with telescopes or binoculars and with cameras, and most with a thermos!

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Luckily we had packed hot chocolate supplies for the walk and settled down in a bird hide to enjoy our drinks and watch the starlings settle down for the night.

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The walk home as the sun set over the nature reserve was stunning; such pink winter skies and silhoutted bulrushes and trees. The mist was gathering over the water and the only sound was geese and ducks in the distance.

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Watching the starlings is a winter ritual that I am becoming very fond of, and one not to be missed. Since our trip to Otmoor I have seen coverage on a few tv shows of murmurations all around the country, and perhaps next year we will travel to the coast to see them gather and dance over the sand dunes!

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Natural Christmas Crafting

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A very quick Christmas Eve post to share some recent festive makes with you, as promised! They are all very simple to create, so you could even have a go this afternoon if you have an hour free! Personally, I’ll be enjoying some (relative) peace and quiet with a mince pie, mulled wine and the carols on the radio!

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Scandi Dala horse decorations, made from white fimo (oven-bake) clay, cut out with a horse shape cookie cutter and decorated with red ceramic paint. I painted both sides, so that they look extra pretty as they hang on the tree. Remember to make a small hole for a hanging loop before baking – I forgot to do this with the first batch!

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The house is decorated with natural greenery from our garden and the surrounding fields. The beautiful mistletoe was a lucky find from our local farm shop, where they were very generously giving away bunches to all customers – small acts of kindness like this are what Christmas is all about for me, and whilst this is important throughout the year, somehow these small gestures feel a bit more magical during the festive season.

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A garland made from dried orange slices and star anise (just in shot) and the Dala horses packaged up in gift boxes. Als0, a batch of apple strudel vodka, recipe thanks to Elinor, Beach Hut Cook, who shared it on her site recently. It is the best! I am really looking forward to experimenting with some apple strudel cocktails over the holidays.

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I decorated the bottles with more of the dried orange slices and cinnamon sticks – I thought they might be nice added to Christmas cocktails or mulled with something! The gift tags were an online printable, found via Pinterest, which I personalised using PicMonkey editor and then printed onto white cardstock.

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A little homemade gravadlax experiment, which I am trying for the first time. It smells amazing, and will hopefully be ready for Christmas day snacks before lunch. I mixed loads of fresh dill with salt and sugar and covered a fresh salmon with the mixture. It has been marinading for two days in the fridge and looks almost ready.

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Using fresh rosemary and sage from the garden I made several mini wreaths. Each one only took ten minutes to make, and was so satisfying – I love easy projects like this! I used some green florists wire as the base and wrapped the herbs around this, carefully tucking in the ends of each stalk. I have hung the wreaths around my house; by a mirror, on a blackboard and in the kitchen and they provide a gentle herby scent to the house. I have also made some festive-scented hessian bags of dried orange, cloves and star anise, and place these by the radiators in the evening. Again, these provide a lovely subtle Christmassy scent to the whole house.

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And of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas Eve without a mince pie. Made with Mia and Joe’s help, although they both mainly wanted to eat the raw pastry!

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas (or non-religious festive celebration) and enjoy the rest, cosiness and time with loved ones that this time of year allows. Wishing you peace and love for the New Year xx

 

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