Tag Archives: Buzzard

Easter and the Fertility Goddess

A lot of people wonder what the word ‘Easter’ means, and if you don’t already know the answer then you’re in for a surprise. Easter is actually Eostre, an ancient German fertility goddess associated with the springtime. Eostre is almost certainly a version of the ancient Babylonian goddess, Ishtar, and therefore the same as the Phoenician goddess Astarte, who was also known (in different time periods and places) as Ashtarot. According to one very reliable ancient source (preserved by the early Christian bishop, Eusebius of Caesaria):

“… Astarte set the head of a bull upon her own head as the mark of royalty, and in travelling about the world she found a star that had fallen from the sky, which she took up and consecrated in the holy island Tyre [modern day Lebanon]. And the Phoenicians say that Astarte is Aphrodite.”

My reconstruction of the so-called Burney Relief, an item of pottery, dating from 19th or 18th century BC, which is believed to show the Babylonian goddess, Ishtar. She also seems to have been associated with birds, and here is depicted as a bird-woman. Film fans will probably recognise the inspiration for the mechanical owl in Ray Harryhausen’s blockbuster 1980s movie Clash of the Titans.

This is very interesting because Aphrodite was known to the Romans as Venus and identified with the planet of the same name, which is Earth’s nearest neighbour, and which is also the brightest star in the night sky.

So, I hope you all had a happy Ishtar!

Anyhow, it is the perfect time to acknowledge both fertility and birds, and here is a little video about birds which you will see pairing off and building nests right now all around Wicklow, and further afield.

Birthpangs of Spring

The winter of 2013/14 has certainly been the winter of storms, but the heavy bouts of rain (and those of sleet and snow too) have somehow kick-started spring growth. As the days grow longer there’s more and more to see. The snowdrops are now blooming absolutely everywhere.

Snowdrops in full bloom by a hedgerow. Beautiful.
Snowdrops in full bloom by a hedgerow. Beautiful.

The crocuses are already coming into a peak of blooming, although there are not quite so many pollinating insects about right now. Here are some very nice ones in my garden.

Crocuses in full bloom. Very distinctive.
Crocuses in full bloom. Very distinctive.

At this time of year it’s a good idea to not only look at what’s going on at ground level, but also up into the air in the sky about. A few days ago we had a really sunny and cold day, and I had an opportunity to observe two Buzzards (Buteo buteo) circling overhead.

A Buzzard circling overhead, revealing quite striking patterns on the feathers covering the underside of the wings.
A Buzzard circling overhead, revealing quite striking patterns on the feathers covering the underside of the wings. Not a great shot, but you can see what it is.

The European Buzzard is technically a large hawk or small eagle and should not be confused with vultures, which are often referred to in America as ‘Buzzards’. Our Buzzard is actually a close relative of the American Red-shouldered Hawk. They are beautiful birds and at this time of the year will land in newly ploughed fields to eat earthworms and grubs exposed by the soil. Of course, they also eat rodents, other birds and can take young rabbits and hares.