A Pre-Christmas Walk in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery

Dear Readers, during last week I did a post in which I categorically stated that the robin was the only UK bird that sang during winter. Well, trust nature to prove me wrong because when I was in the cemetery on Saturday, a number of song thrushes were singing their heads off, and very nice it was too, though they normally wouldn’t kick off until the end of January/beginning of February. According to my newsletter from the British Trust for Ornithology, this phenomenon is being observed all over the south of England – our unseasonably mild winter (so far) seems to have persuaded the song thrushes that the worst is over, and they can start advertising for a mate. Let’s hope they’re right.

I love the song of these birds – I am always reminded of Robert Browning’s poem ‘Home Thoughts from Abroad’ –

That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!

And indeed that’s what the song thrush seems to do – each one has a set of phrases that seem to delight him, and he repeats them a few times, then moves on to something else. Each song is individual, and yet each is distinctively the song of the species. This is a recording of a song thrush in Coldfall Wood from a wet Good Friday in 2015.

The song thrush wasn’t the only bird that was about in abundance. A flock of about 30 goldfinches flew from tree to tree, their calls like little bells.

And the robins were still belting it out.

The crows and magpies and jays are everywhere. I rather liked this crow, silhouetted against the sky. Goodness only knows what he or she has found to eat.

But changes are afoot. A whole swathe of underbrush and forest has been cut to make room for more graves, and the smouldering pyre has been burning for over a week, with a fire engine in attendance last week. People do like to burn things, especially at this time of year. I am very glad that I don’t live down wind. I have always thought that I wanted to be buried, as I see it as a less polluting way to recycle myself (not until I’m actually dead though, please), but I am wondering if cremation could actually turn out to be more sustainable, in spite of the smoke. It certainly takes up less room.

But, in other more cheerful news, look at this!

A car crashed into the cemetery wall in January this year, causing significant damage to the wall, which I suspect is listed.

And now some beautiful stonework has repaired the wall back to its former glory. It must have been hard getting all this organised in the middle of a pandemic, but here it is. Well done to whoever repaired it, it looks like a lovely job.

And finally, I am throwing myself on your collective brilliance, as usual. Does anybody have a notion what this shrub might be? I didn’t want to risk getting mown down by a bus to get a bit closer, but will get myself better organised if no one has an id. It looks very spectacular.

Maybe I should just incorporate the photo into next week’s quiz :-).

5 thoughts on “A Pre-Christmas Walk in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery

  1. Anne

    A fascinating overview of birds singing at this time of the year. I am pleased too to see the stonework repaired so beautifully – not as easy as it looks. We had a similar incident here earlier this year with an equally beautiful restoration of a low stone wall over a century old (which is old for this part of the world πŸ™‚ ).

  2. Alittlebitoutoffocus

    Nice job on that wall! πŸ‘πŸ‘ We have at least 2 robins in and around our garden but neither seem to be singing at the moment (not that I’ve been sitting outside to listen to them very often!) Though we do hear some of the wading birds, most notably the curlews and recently some whimbrels.


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