Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Is it one of ours...?

Overnight the snow and freezing temperatures have gone. 

George's Pond 
Where the garden was previously crunchy-white, turning perennials into artwork and freezing the pond - a rather-flattened and soggy order has returned. Yesterday we had up to forty fieldfares brawling on the snowy lawn for the halved apples we'd taken from the store and thrown down for them: it is quiet now.

The order sees a return to the queues of small birds visiting the feeders. A favourite amongst them is 'Chester-the-chunky-chaffinch'. He's a bulky male with a distinctive and unusual white breast. Intriguingly he carries a bird ring on his right leg leading us to guess that he's one of the chaffinches we ringed as a juvenile in pre-adult plumage during the autumn 2019. Chaffinches typically stay local to their natal site (where they were born) with males being especially site-loyal. Lockdown rules prevent us setting up the nets so we just hope he's still with us later in the year to catch, check and re-release. One of my old dad's sayings comes to mind at this time. Burned somewhere in his pre-dementia psyche he recalled his experience as a child during the night of  the Nottingham blitz (8–9 May 1941) and always thereafter asked 'Is it one of ours?' whenever a plane flew over. With Chester I can't help asking the same - 'Is he one of ours?'...
Winter aconites

The disadvantage of aberrant colouring, of course, is it it makes it easier for predators to single him out. We are on the beat of a male sparrowhawk who nimbly inspects the feeders and seeding perennials several times each day for a plump feathered snack... he is an absolutely stunning apricot, white and grey bird. I got the chance to admire him at close hand a couple of days ago when he alighted on one of the bee hotels close by the kitchen window. A dunnock twitched safely in the bare twigs of a magnolia stellata three feet from him. 

The winter aconites that had emerged from the thick leaf-litter blanket on the drive were arrested in their growth by the recent cold. But this morning thirty signalled 'business -as-usual' like cornershops after a flood. Snowdrops are poised to open. Primrose are stretching their leaves out after their sleep. The praying fingers of daffodils reach up in the grass beneath the limes amongst the battlefield of molehills they've created in the grass, throwing up mini-mountains of soil and stones.

Starling nest box beneath the garage eaves
I have starlings in my sights for nest-box breeding this year. I saved scrap wood and mackled-togther a box of slightly larger dimensions than Chris duFeu recommends in his BTO nestbox book. Generosity or operator error? You decide.

Soon my house sparrow semi's will join the starling box at the other end of the eaves. Then it's fingers-crossed.

We have a family of little field voles living in a border by the kitchen. They receive a calorific boost each time we sweep the floor and wipe down the high chairs after our young grandchildren have visited. Recently, I watched a field vole struggling away with a piece of sucked-and-spat-out pizza quite as large as itself. Did somebody just say just eat?

My wellington's gave up recently - a gaping rip in the heal of the left boot. I've bought a new pair and was about to dispose of the old ones when Jill pointed-out that the right one could still be worn. Picture an elderly gardener bouncing around his garden in one good welly rather like Zebeddee from the Magic Roundabout...

The wildlife in our garden is fascination-without-end for me. 

I have been asked to have my name put forward for something-or-other to do with wildlife gardening by my friends at Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust.

I wrote....

Let there be:

window-boxes, hanging baskets, balconies, yards, allotments and gardens all a-flutter

wriggling organic healthy soils and peat-free compost

humid, pulsing compost bins and wormeries

buzzing pots and borders 

critter-full mulches, piles, rotting, damp, shade

snuffling, hopping, squeaking things

unmown lawns

nibbled-leafed shrubs and trees for nesting and resting and hiding and berries and fruits  

simple flowers (like invertebrate transport cafes) in abundance throughout the year

nest boxes 

bat boxes

bug hotels

water-filled saucers and ponds






love and learning


Let there be wildlife!


Sena said...

Great article,thank you!

Rob said...

Thanks Sena!