winter moon

The Singing Spud

Friday 1st December 2000, West Yorkshire
sparrowhawkWELL, that's the wettest autumn on record over and I wish I could start winter with a page brimming over with wildlife. But apart from a Sparrowhawk, briefly glimpsed heading up the street on its patrols, and its nominal prey, the House Sparrows, busy, argumentative but ever vigilant on the bird feeders, I don't get the chance to see much wildlife at all.

sparrows By the time we do go out, as ever to catch the last collection at the post office across the bridge, it is already dark. It's a mild evening. Banks of low, ragged cloud are sweeping across a pale, luminous sky. The bright 'evening star', Venus, is visible for a while in the south before it disappears behind the cloud. The waxing moon lasts a little longer before it too is snuffed out.

half moon

Strange but True

So the most unusual observation of the day revolves around lunch. In fact the most unusual observation of the day is lunch; our jacket potatoes revolving on their turntable under a little spotlight in the microwave, like some novelty variety act doing a turn. There's a high-pitched continuous whistle, like a steam train sounding it's whistle, or a singing kettle. Barbara wonders if the microwave is faulty while I begin to think it must be someone drilling outside.

We open the microwave and, to our surprise, realise that it's one of the potatoes. It continues for a few seconds then, as if it realises that it has been caught in the act, it slowly fades out, going down a little in tone. It's steam coming out of one of the eyes in the potato, bubbling a little as it escapes.

So that's why they call them Maris Pipers!next page

Richard Bell
Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

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