An Embarassment of Riches

Yellowhammer at the bird feeder
Yellowhammer at the bird feeder

One of the problems with having nature as the central theme is that, while you are busy admiring the gold and red leaves and the fruit and seed pods of autumn – nature, who, by now, is totally bored by all this growth, expansion and the constant need to maximise income over expenditure, just nods off – and leaves you standing there, with nothing to write about. This leads to the temptation to write insulting and snide comments in an attempt to stir some response. It is as well to resist this, as it is firstly, pointless, and secondly – always bear in mind, not only does Google gleefully cache all slips of the keyboard for ever and ever after, but this cache immediately becomes available to European, American and Chinese security services to be broken up into sound bites and churned into Big Data.

Then, suddenly it’s Spring. This week we have some lovely pictures of our mountains, basking in the morning sun with a crisp clean bedcover of snow. Then, under the hedge on the way to the beck we found some Honesty coming into flower. Our wood is looking magnificent in its bright daffodil yellow jumper. There are hyacinths sprouting among the daffodils on the roadsides. We found some Lungwort with its red and blue flowers by the rookery and the Lesser Celandines are bursting out in the warmer spots.

But, in the end, I decided to show you Jackie’s picture of this Yellowhammer, he is on the RSBP ‘Red List’ – meaning there are not many around at the moment.

So, I thought you’d better see him before things get any worse.

This Year’s Crop

First Lambs This Year
First Lambs This Year

As anyone who has ever kept sheep will lose no opportunity to tell you, sheep are the Houdinis of the animal world. They are escape artists par excellence. This field has had a new gate and new fencing installed recently. We’ll see how long it takes them to find their way out. Once the sheep realise that the all the tasty stuff is actually in the field with them, however, they knuckle down and focus on the job of keeping the grass clipped as short as possible. But this realisation dawns slowly. 

For the first few months, especially, the lure of the wild blue yonder is too strong to be denied, or may be it’s just that the grass has to be greener on the other side of the fence, they’ve read it on Facebook – it had twenty thousand ‘Likes’ – so it must be true.

Driving around at this time of year becomes increasingly hazardous as the lambs become more adventuresome and bolder. Some have taken the trouble to plan their escape route ahead of an emergency, others haven’t. When you drive down the lane, those on ‘Red Alert’ immediately take evasive action and head straight for the hole in the hedge they made on their way out of the field. Those happy-go-lucky types, for whom forward planning is an anathema, scuttle up and down the verge or run along the road in front of the car. Many times I have had to wind the car window down and lecture a bunch who belie Bo Peep’s belief.

Leave them alone and they’ll come home, indeed!

To Hell and Back

Robin in the sun

It must be spring. There can no longer any doubt. Over several days now we have spotted two robins around the bird feeder. Robins, especially young males (which will come as no surprise to you) are overly competitive and will, quite literally, protect their patch to the death. This over possessive tendency, which might be though of as nature’s way of ensuring the continuation of the species, in fact leads to an average life expectancy of a mere 1.1 years. Whereas. if they can survive beyond this teenage angst, they’re good for up to twelve years.

I thought you might like to know that the robin’s breast is that bright red colour because, in the olden days, he used to spend part of his days carrying water to quench the parched throats of those poor souls who found themselves (and who, I’m sure would add, through no fault of their own) stoking the furnaces in the nether regions of the afterlife. This took our robins too close the eternal fires and scorched their breast feathers. I’m sure you can do all this over the Internet these days.

Two robins in the garden means they must be mating. There can be no other reason for their co-existence. What a strange way of life. How can you put all that effort into feeding, caring for, educating and generally allowing your offspring to consume a significant part of your life, without being able to spoil the grandchildren?

Fingers Crossed

Hazel Catkins
Hazel Catkins

One of the ‘benefits’ of being over a certain age is that, once a year, you get to visit the doctor’s surgery for an interview with The Nurse.

Having ascertained which arm was used last time, she will fill three or four vials of blood from the other arm. I presume this is a necessary procedure, otherwise you might end up lop-sided, with no blood left in one arm and consequently spend your last remaining days walking round in circles with a pronounced list to port or starboard. I guess the operation of a database somewhere within our health service, where a record could be kept of the number of people who needed to make left-hand turns and those who needed to make right-hand turns, to ensure that the population remained balanced, would stretch the available finances beyond current budgets.

The next stage is the questionnaire. Previously, I’ve not done too badly. I don’t smoke and I drink moderately – and then only medically approved beverages – and, of course, I walk The Dog. This year it proved to be our downfall. My smug assertions of the canine conspiracy (perhaps I should write a book) were met with a new level of inquisition.

“Ah, yes. But is this a brisk walk or more of an amble?”

I did my best to lead the topic of conversation down gentler paths, but The Nurse was not so easily swayed.

So, much to The Dog’s disgust, we have added ‘brisk’ to our daily perambulation.

Hopefully we’ll do better next year – fingers crossed, anyway.