Sunday, December 28, 2008

Yellow wagtails and eucalyptus trees

click photo to enlarge
At the age of eleven I developed an interest in birds that continues to this day. I don't remember too much about my first year's birdwatching apart from what I now call the "yellow wagtail effect". I must have seen this species before I took a deeper interest in birds, but I hadn't known it for what it was. However, after I'd recognised my first bird I seemed to see them everywhere. That initial proper sighting seemed to lift a filter from my eyes and the bird was revealed as fairly common alongside the Yorkshire Dales river and its nearby pastures. Sadly, the species is much less common today. A while ago I had an experience that reminded me of the yellow wagtail effect.

In the garden of a nearby house are a couple of very tall, broad-leaved evergreen trees. They carry their leaves quite distinctively on clusters of branches at the end of sturdy limbs. Ever since I moved to my present home I've admired them, but haven't known what they are. Then, the other day, I saw the tree in today's photograph with its lower bark hanging in strips and loops, looking quite forlorn. On closer inspection it was clear that the tree was deliberately shedding the bark, and the new wood underneath was quite healthy. I was attracted by the purple and bluish tinges that accompanied the new green wood, and took a few shots.

It was only after I'd done this that I looked higher up the tree and realised it was another example of the species that I'd been admiring. So, back at my study I did some research in my books and on the web. After a bit of digging I discovered that the tree was a variety of eucalyptus. Now I've seen eucalyptus many times before, but usually they've been younger and smaller, and perhaps not this variety. But, ever since I've taken an interest in this tree I've seen more and more examples as I've travelled about. Once more a filter has been lifted from my eyes. It seems that the rich Lincolnshire soil, and the climate that's relatively warm in summer, and colder in winter, suits the eucalyptus so it is reasonably commonly grown for ornamental purposes.

Prior to my research I knew as much about the eucalyptus as the average person. That is to say I knew only two things: that the leaves are the main food of the koala (you don't see many of those in Lincolnshire!), and eucalyptus oil is added to a number of sore throat remedies. My research increased my knowledge of the tree, but didn't tell me why it seems to be fairly popular in this part of England, but less so (at least to my untrained eye) farther north and west. Perhaps when I next venture into those areas I'll now see what was previously hidden from me.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 22mm (44mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/50
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: On