e-book The Peacocks Tale

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I'm fascinated by our folk heritage; ancient traditions, customs, songs and tales reflecting a way of life that has all but disappeared, even from our collective memory.

Stock Photo - Close up of the peacocks tale feathers

Do share your stories too; it would be wonderful to hear from you. His connection to the seasons and how they affect the land around him is evocatively described; above all his love for the countryside that he inhabits is tangible. In January when I first started to plan my spring and summer embroideries I turned immediately to John Clare and read and re-read The Woodlark. This book suggesed that in John Clare's poem the woodlark was an alternative name for the tree pipit.

I felt disappointed, pipit doesn't sound nearly as romantic as woodlark. Then I read on and learned that in the eighteenth century the pipit family were referred to as 'titlarks', which literally meant 'small larks' and thanks to John Clare's precise description of his 'woodlark's ' behaviour it seems that he was referring to the tree pipit.

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Both birds have mottled dusky eggs, both are songsters but the description that John Clare gives of the bird's rising flight whilst singing and then her dropping to earth are apparently more evocative of the tree pipit; I find it amazing that two hundred years after the poem was written the species of bird can be so confidently discussed because it has been so accurately observed in the writing. Published in , leather bound with marbled end papers and complete with beautiful line drawings and colour plates, the book of British Birds would doubtless have more information on the subject.

It did.


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Under woodlark was the following statement: "In appearance the woodlark is a lesser skylark It ranks with the six or eight finest British songsters but is the least known of all. The tree-pipit, sometimes called woodlark, is a much better known songster". So, a tree pipit or a woodlark? It's a moot point. She can continue to lay her mottled eggs safe in the secrecy of her nest and I can embroider my nest safe in the knowledge that somewhere in Britain a woodlark will still be flying under whatever name she or John Clare chooses.

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I've never made a Christmas Pudding but I do like to make my own mincemeat and Christmas cake and so my Stir-up Sunday usually involves bags of raisins, sultanas, suet, citrus rinds, brown sugar and copious amounts of brandy. However this year I thought I'd look back to earlier times, a Medieval Christmas, and forgo the mincemeat and fruit cake for a beautifully fragrant and rich gingerbread; a proper gingerbread full of ground ginger, stem ginger and all the other wonderful spices that signify Christmas and it'll be made a little nearer the time.

So today, to get in the mood and to mark Stir-up Sunday I'm going to make my Aunty Glad's Ginger Cake; comforting, sticky, delicious and redolent of childhood Sunday afternoon teas in a tiny cottage in Cefn-y-Bedd in North Wales.


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And, in case you'd like to bake your own gingery goodness, here is the recipe:. Sift together the flour, salt and spices and stir in the sugar. Add the melted trex, treacle and beaten eggs. But why does she think he is good looking? Scientists, stumped by that question throughout the animal kingdom, hypothesized that something more than chemistry drives mate choice.

Looks are certainly important for the peacock, with his absurdly bright, burdensome train that he shows off to attract a female. Peahens often choose males for the quality of their trains -- the quantity, size, and distribution of the colorful eyespots. Experiments show that offspring of males with more eyespots are bigger at birth and better at surviving in the wild than offspring of birds with fewer eyespots. This way of choosing a mate is just one type of sexual selection: members of one sex mating in disproportionate numbers with members of the opposite sex that possess some "showy" feature.

A peacock's tail: how Darwin arrived at his theory of sexual selection | Science | The Guardian

It might be ornate peacock plumage, large antlers on a deer, or a bird's particularly melodious mating call. Another type of sexual selection is combat among members of the same sex to choose an available mate. But bigger is only better up to a point.

The Peacock's Tale

If peacock trains become too big or too colorful over time, they may no longer confer a selective advantage. Exaggerated trains might attract a new kind of predator or become too heavy to carry around. Then, those super males die out and make room for the more ordinary males -- until another turn of the evolutionary wheel begins the cycle again. Format: QuickTime or RealPlayer.

Topics Covered: Adaptation and Natural Selection.