Saturday, 11 March 2017

the hungry gap ...

A huge gash, a deep-rooted wound was left in the cedar that shed its hefty branch during Doris. From twenty feet below you could see the orange cavity, the colour of rats' incisors. Do trees feel pain? If so, this rent must have hurt.
Our tree surgeons visited telling us that the trunk was weakened making the upper part unstable and therefore unsafe. They worked all day and the tree has been 'topped' - or beheaded. Its partner has had the tree equivalent of a short-back-and-sides. The trees have now been given the all-clear. What would a Cedar Walk be without cedars? Just a walk, I guess.

The 'mother feeder' was on form yesterday attracting: 
  • redpoll; 
  • siskin; 
  • goldfinch;
  • greenfinch;
  • brambling;
  • tree sparrow;
  • chaffinch.
The mix of tree sparrows and winter visitors like brambling shows that is the 'in-between' time: neither winter nor spring. Another name for this period is 'the hungry gap' - the time when winter food has been exhausted and before new food supplies become available  Even more important to feed birds as well-fed birds enter the breeding season in better condition and better able to rear healthy young.
The 'mother feeder' is an ungainly and difficult-to-manage beast of a bird feeder. Even in a modest wind it becomes 'the leaning tower of feeder'. And due to its volume is expensive to fill - and seed germinates inside believing it is in a bespoke greenhouse creating a cylindrical internal lawn that I have to remove by keyhole surgery using hooked wire entering through the twelve feeder holes. The discarded seed is gobbled up by the mallards who have just taken up noisy residence. Mum and dad love them.

The male redpoll seen on the feeder carries a leg ring so is probably our regular as they are 'site-faithful'. This 'site-faithfulness' comes, in part from knowing that food will be there reliably. No missed days when the feeders are empty - or filled with grass.
He's now glorious red throughout his breast and forehead giving the impression that he's been dipped in cochineal. Or resembling a feathered blood orange. A striking bird, he is shown as ringed in February 2015 before his breeding plumage developed.

Our bird ringing on New Farm two weeks ago was not our most successful, in part because we sensed that winter flocks were dispersing in readiness for breeding. This has possibly been borne out with the arrival of several prospecting tree sparrows throughout the garden. First they were seen on our drive feeders, then they moved to the 'mother feeder'.

This morning, as I visited the chickens I counted four calling male tree sparrows near to separate garden nest boxes. My younger self, who pored over bird books as a child, would be delighted. The Blandford Book of British Birds I've had since the age of 9 (showing Passer montanus) is pictured. Ringing tree sparrow chicks may induce unhealthily high endorphin levels. 

In the hen house, our elderly ladies are living out a regal retirement, eating heartily and grumbling. They are the chicken equivalent of 'bed blockers': there will be no new pullets in the hen house until there is a vacancy.

Still no frogspawn.

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