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 It's about five hours from Gatwick to Leicester on the bus. Most of this is through the countryside. It was late April, and lots of stuff was blooming I have taken lots of photos since then, but none through the bus window, for which you are very welcome. However, I did get to see lots of hedged fields--the hedges were much lower than I thought they would be. I didn't reach sheep country really, though I saw a few, and some cattle, and a lot of grain fields and some gorgeous yellow canola(rapeseed) fields.  It was immediately obvious that they weren't exactly mustard fields. They were a different yellow, and even farther away the texture was different and I could tell the flowers were bigger and carried a bit farther from the main stem.

The verges were planted to forest trees and a large shrub with abundant small flowers. If you're from the UK, you know what it is. I had my suspicion because I know some songs that talk about how well the may blooms, etc., but I didn't know for a couple of days when I asked Hana and she said her mother called them "hloch" in Czech, which was enough of a clue that I could look it up on slovnik.com, which is a priceless asset if you ask me. It turns out the standard Czech is "hloh," and it means hawthorn or may. So there you have it. 

Hawthorn isn't quite the life-changing revelation that linden was to me, but it's a pretty amazing thing. It apparently will naturally grow in ragged hedges,putting out these great elegantly curving branches covered in earnest lobed (almost palmate) leaves, and for a long time in the spring, these tiny flowers like plum flowers both in shape and scent. And here in Thorpe Acre (a neighborhood of Louhgborough, where Frank and Hana live), you can walk all over town and pass under arches of the stuff several times in the process.

Who else loves hawthorn are the many many loud melodious songbirds. Of thrushes alone (that is, like blackbirds and American robins) there are may species: also finches and corvids. I am lousy at photographing birds, so no dice there either.
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Every bit of information I have gotten since that first partial pathology report has been boring. That's good. I do have a fairly rare and aggressive type of cancer, but it's not more aggressive than other more common cancers, it doesn't appear to be growing fast, it has given no evidence of having spread anywhere, and it has helpful receptors and it  doesn't have unhelpful ones. So therefore my treatment plan is really routine. I will have a wee bit of a lumpectomy and the lymph nodes connected to that part of the breast will be removed too. If all goes well, and there's no cancer in the lymph nodes and the piece of flesh that's removed looks like it has a good margin around the tumor, I'll get a course of radiation and five to ten years of a hormone-locking medication. If there's doubt about the margins, they might go in again and remove more tissue. If there's cancer in the lymph nodes, or if no cancer in the lymph nodes but there's dangerous looking genetics in the removed tissue, I will also get a course of chemotherapy.

Everybody seems to think this is walk-in-the-park level of treatment, by which I mean, i'm not expecting tremendous amounts of side effects--some, of the type we associate with these things, but not a lot. And no disability to speak of. Which is frustrating the hell out of friends and family who want to do things for me. All I need is three rides the day of the surgery and someone to walk the dog that day and the next. After that--I'm a boring normal person.

It's all a bit anticlimactic, but I'm not complaining.

On another front, doves sat on my skylight for half an hour yesterday, giving me a lovely view of their red red feet and their fuzzy feathery butts, but it sure drove Zluta nuts.
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One of the salient things about being back in my own room at the top of the house is the tremendous amount of birdsong I get up here. It's only a second story--I think it's a second story even for you Europeans, because there's a five-foor above-ground basement--but the five-foot basement, the high ceilings on the first floor, and the big space between the floors, means I sit over twenty feet off the ground and well into the birds' territory. One of my windows is a full-size sliding door (it really ought to have a porch out there). I keep it open at least a little bit except when it's very cold (which happens in this season sometimes). The air in my room is tree-flavored and actively bird-noisy. The view from my windows and skylights is rooftops, trees, and sky.

My neighborhood has a lot of trees in it. A hundred and more years ago, when maybe half the houses were built, it was kind of a suburban area (downtown being all of ten blocks away), with a certain amount of truck farming in it and people having a bit of livestock. So there's a legacy of fruit trees (largely plums, apples, lemons, figs, loquats,and avocados, as well as walnuts and even some olives even though we are not nearly warm enough in the summer to make a winning proposition of those). You can tell the old ones because they're bigger types. Dwarfing of productive trees is not new, but it has been increasing. And then also, each generation that lives here has had its own idea of the proper type of ornamental tree, and has planted these new trees without often removing the old ones. As to "trash" trees-- the fast-growing, self-planting urban trees that appear without welcome, my neighborhood seems to have a great tolerance for them (I have myself had two of them removed in the last month or so: one was pretending to be a root sprout of my almond tree and the over was pretending to be a root sprout of my lemon tree). My neighborhood also borders on a wetlands preserve. Altogether, despite the close-set houses and the apartment buildings and all the pet and feral cats, it's a great neighborhood for birds. Birders come specifically to Neary Lagoon, in fact.

And now it's over. It's eight-thirty now, and I guess it's been over for half an hour? There's still bird noise out there, but it's not dramatic and steady any more, except for the mourning dove who never seems to shut up. Fortnately for me, I like the mounring dove sound. I can see how it might drive some people batty after a few days, though, until they learned not to hear it.

I could get into birding from my window. It would act quite well as a blind since the trees close by are full of birds carrying on their normal business. Yesterday I watched a crow patrolling the eaves of Zack's little house, standing right on the edge of the roof and leaning over to catch something. I need to learn the names of the little fat birds that hop around on the trees in my yard: there are several varieties, and I only know the names of the most obvious. Just now I went to some effort to learn the name of the black phoebe. WhatBird is useless for flycatcher type birds, apparently.

One of my brothers-in-law is a master birder, and Emma is getting into it somewhat (though she has no time for anything now). So I have people I can ask. What I really ought to get is one of those sets of recordings of birdsong, so I can learn who is saying what out there, besides the mourning doves.

Is my impression correct that the rhythm of the mourning doves speeds up as the mornign progresses?
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So I almost convinced myself that the very large, very dark bird I saw at Lighthouse Field was a golden eagle, until I saw the picture of the dark morph of the -- you guessed it -- red tail hawk. It was perhaps the biggest red tail I've seen close up, maybe head and shoulders taller than an average red tail, but not so big that I couldn't believe it. I saw also a pair of falcon things. I guess that they had to be peregrines. They were way too big to be kestrels. Also, the almost (American) robin-sized birds that are running around on the ground at the field right now are either horned larks or American pipits, I think. The yellow-breasted birds, sort of finch like but bigger than finches, that are flying around are not tyrant flycatchers because they are not solitary. Maybe they are pipits, but if they are, the running around birds are horned larks. I am sure they are not the same birds that are running around (they're somewhat smaller and the running around ones seem grayer, less truly yellow). There are various warblers and sparrows which make a case for themselves, but I'm not convinced of any of them yet.

We just got the Sibley field guide to birds of western North America. We used to have the Peterson but we lost it and had to get a new book, and so I did the reference book choosing thing: I got all the relevant books off the shelf (there were seven, I think) and went looking for indications of quality. One: how many cormorant species does it list? You'd be surprised at how many books only list the double crested. What's up with that? Cormorants, at least hereabouts, come in several types (I thought four, but it looks like four total of which we get three), and they don't practice apartheid. So if you care,you need pictures and descriptions of all of them. Another thing: does it have in-flight pictures? Does it show you the features you need to differentiate similar birds? Does it show females and juveniles? How about common-uncommon morphs? Does it discuss seasonality, or have a migration map? Voice?

Sibley won. So anyway now I want to identify the feathers off every damned bird that flies or sits in town.

On another front, I'm still struggling with the storylet, which would like to be a very angsty relationship novel instead of a quick-draw storylet with a dangerous Thing in the Hills.

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