Detail on a daffodil

Detail on a daffodil

Every year in their thousands they mark the turn of the season in sunshine yellow. But, personally, I have never stopped to look at them in detail - until now.

I decide to sketch the flowers (as best as my ability will allow) to give me cause to be curious. I find I notice more detail than if I were a more casual observer. And close up, this flower is surprising.

From afar, these flowers are curved and circular, but close up I can see they are really linear. The curves are the craft and consequence of fibres that run perpendicular to them.

I follow those fibres on one flower from base to tip - the length of its aptly named 'corona' - and see a tiny spider has found a spot to soak up the sun on the soft edge at the top of the tube. The spider stands motionless and, because its dark, armoured body contrasts starkly with the glowing flower, it is possible to make out the detail on its legs and body in a way not normally possible.

From afar these flowers are smooth, vibrant and fresh. But close up this flower in front of me now is rough, frayed and decaying at the edges. Its core is fresher, though, and cool to the touch.

Looking down its tube it is easy to comprehend how flowers become fruits: it has segments, like an orange, spreading out from the base of its stigma. Those segments hint at the intricacies inside the flower that allow them to reach their thousands.

At the daffodil's base, petals spread wide and provide the canvas for soft shadows that dance constantly as the flower blows in the wind.

A bee comes buzzing in and weaves between the flowers - maintaining a perfectly steady height off the ground while turning on its chosen plane so flatly that it is as if it is moving across a glass shelf.

This is only the third bee I have seen this season, and the smallest by far.  After a few minutes, I have seen my fourth and fifth - all just the same as the third. Drawn to the many sources of sunshine and providing another hint at how they reach their numbers.

A fly lands on my pencil - disconcertingly close to my face and for a few moments (until it realises where it is...) I find a new source of curiosity.

Attempts at the art of observation © Will Ashley-Cantello

As the clouds clear the sun bathes my back in warm rays and, as I sit back to enjoy it, in the corner of my eye I see a shadow move across the grass and between the clumps of yellow. I discover the source of the shadow as a smartly dressed magpie swoops to land on a branch overhead.

Another joins the first and I have a sense that a change is afoot. Sure enough, a man with a well-worn hat enters stage-left laden with two heavy bags. He pauses by the trunk of the magpies' tree, reaches into one of his bags and lifts a fist full of nuts to place on the shoulder of the evergreen's lowest branch.

A few paces further on, he does the same on a larger oak, now directly in front of me. He wanders onward and in his wake a wave of activity rises. Squirrels, more magpies, pigeons, and crows move in.

I can hear the crunching of the squirrels breaking through to their nuts, sitting upright as they do.

There is a battle of bravery and cunning underway. The squirrels and magpies make swift attacking and evasive moves around each other. The magpies make their familiar rattle call and flash their green-blue feathers in low altitude acrobatic flying. These two seem fairly well matched.

Above them in the pecking order the less numerous crows bully and dominate small territories rich in nuts. At the other end, the timid pigeons make do with the scraps they can gather on brief, nervous raids. 

The peculiar and dramatic scene captures all my attention for several minutes until the calm is restored as all parties scatter. Just me and the flowers again.

Now I have seen the detail on a daffodil. Have you?

Tracks in the snow

Tracks in the snow

Riding out the storm

Riding out the storm