Sunday, 11 July 2021 18:10

About flying things

For the last month or so I have had to resort to earplugs from around 4.30am as the dawn chorus shouts at me through my open bedroom windows and the sparrows squabble noisily in the rose bushes around the bird feeders. The countryside is supposed to be peaceful but, what with the songbirds singing, the starlings and jackdaws squawking on the feeders, plus the constant “beep-beeping” of the farm’s vehicles (they seem to drive all of them in reverse the whole time), trying to sleep beyond 4.30am now requires ear defenders.


But there has been a great deal to get up for over the last few months. I am somewhat of a procrastinator and “needer of deadlines” so I didn’t clear a single fallen leaf over winter. Thus, in March, I was head down in the borders clearing everything and, in the process, somewhat unusually, I have found a great many ladybirds hibernating. I was very pleased to see them because they and their offspring eat my aphids when the time comes (now) – with the able assistance of the usually numerous tits.

 Tits galore2

However, BBC’s Springwatch advised us that the Blue Tits suffered this year. The strange weather meant the caterpillars on oaks (that they rely on for food) didn’t happen until very late this year whilst the Tits didn’t change the timing of laying their one clutch of eggs and had nothing to feed them with. As a result, most of the young and many of the adults died. Having had lots of Blue Tits on my feeders in Spring they did, indeed, suddenly disappear. However, my early Summer has been “made” by having a couple of Blue Tits with a fledgling on my feeders. Initially they all looked pretty ragged but were alive and the parents were feeding the baby.

They look much healthier now, a few days later. Phew – but can they still deal with the aphids?!

I’ve had other bird “troubles” too. As those of you who have read this blog in the past will know, I regularly have a starling nest in the very top eaves of the house – from whence Bob The Starling fell, some years back. So, this Feb/March, when there was a great deal of noisy fluttering and banging from the same spot on the edge of the roof, I guessed the starlings were back. However, at the same time, large sticks suddenly appeared strewn all over my recently cleared terrace, various roofs, into recently cleared gutters and onto a garden chair below. And the noise was much greater than usual.


I couldn’t think what was going on. So I did a “watch”. One morning two enormous Jackdaws flew out of the space. That would explain the extra noise! However, two starlings then immediately started taking nest materials in. “Surely they both can’t nest in the same space?” I thought. As I continued my vigil, wrapped up against the cold of morning, I saw one of the Jackdaws fly towards the small gap with a huge twig about 50cms long held crossways in its beak, hit the entrance and bounce back dropping the stick (which clearly couldn’t pass through the opening which is max 20 cms/8 inches) onto my roof. The starlings then continued to fly in with their grassy and leafy offerings, cleverly often holding them at almost N/S ways in their beaks in order to get them in.


A battle royal ensued for some weeks over the nest space. I favoured the starlings but sadly the jackdaws won out and I have since found a dead starling in the highest loft. The jackdaws successfully raised their young and have now flown. However, the starlings obviously also found somewhere close by to nest because they and their young are now also on my feeders. 


I have also had some unusual Tit visitors. Great Tits, Long Tailed and Blue (were) common but suddenly, in Spring, some new Tits arrived. They looked a little like long-tailed ones in colouring (ie pinky brown) but were short tailed, stubby and small. I rushed to my bird book and identified them as either Willow Tits or Marsh Tits. Both are quite rare but my ‘twitcher’ friends in the village told me they must be Marsh Tits (the least rare) because the others are SO rare. Oh well! It is lovely to have some unusual visitors whichever they are.

The pond is also now alive with flying things - red, blue and green Damsel Flies mating and ovipositing onto the surface pond plants.


The blue broad bodied chaser (above) has just emerged from one of their amazing larva cases (below). I am still waiting for this one to hatch.

Then they spread their wings out to dry before flying off and around the pond to find a mate and oviposit into a stem again.

And I have also done my duty by all the bees and other insects. I always have lots of canes and loose wood lying around the garden and a plethora of weeds/natural plants but, in May, I heared someone on Radio 4 imploring us to do 'No Mow May' - to help the bees predominantly. I thought this a fun idea so stopped mowing the back lawn, instead just mowing two paths through it. It still looks the same in what is now "no mow July"!



I have to say that I think my profusion of flowering plants from Rosemary early on to all those out now - roses, honeysuckle, wisteria, geraniums, persicaria, astrantia etc - seem to attract the bees and other insects more than the daisies, buttercups, clover, bugle and grasses now filling my ex back lawn but, heh, it looks different and rather befitting of Covid times - and I found a Lady's Smock in there too.


Obviously, there is lots more to say about now (and the intervening period) but I’ll leave it for other blogs.


And finally I should apologise for the ‘radio silence’. Since the last blog I have lost one of my beloved younger brothers (Greg) to a brain tumour after an eight year fight and my wonderful Dad (Robin) to old age in February last year. Then Covid struck, I got very scared and lost the will to write and share as I focused on survival, family, friends, pilates and quizzing (via Zoom), growing food in the garden and volunteering in the local Community Shop - which went bonkers thanks to Covid. Other people became creative. I didn't. I wish I had and am envious of their creative enthusiasm and success in lockdown.


Anyway, here I am, double jabbed, on the other side of that "gap" for me, blogging again and possibly living on the right side of the pandemic? Let's hope so. Now we just have to worry about what Brexit will mean for plant and other garden supplies! More soon.