Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Fieldfares lift off stubble and grass or decorate iron grey hawthorn hedges, perfectly colour coordinated, often accompanied by Redwings, that dapper little Thrush. These are the birds of open winter country, only dropping into gardens when rural supplies dwindle; in gardens they'll tidy up windfall apples and dine on food put out by generous bird feeders. In the meantime their constant chatter and high pitched 'seeps' punctuate top farm. Down by Poultmoor Copse I once saw a Sparrow Hawk swoop over a hedge and ambush a Fieldfare, whilst the hawk tackled the large thrush, a Buzzard dropped down out of a nearby tree and tried to take the Fieldfare for an easy meal. In the melee the Fieldfare escaped, hedgerow theatre!
In the garden yesterday, it was a different soundtrack....Nuthatch, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Robin; we'll have to wait a little later for Chaffinch and Blackbird. These birds tend to shun the open country and made it feel almost spring like; but Laurie Lee puts it perfectly.....'The first imitations (of spring) come as early as January, several months ahead of their time, when a sudden breath of warm air can release a quick prelude of birdsong, valiant; but half deceived'. Rosa, one of my daughters, bought me a collection of Laurie Lee essays for Christmas, it's a real gem and I also had a good frosty walk in the Slad Valley followed by a couple of pints in the Woolpack last week too.
However in the soil spring has started, Winter Aconites are erupting and everywhere the thrusting shoots of bulbs puncture soil and grass. Plants of interest range from Galanthus (Snowdrop Genus) 'Rodmarton' and 'Elwessii' as well as the softly spicy fragrant shrub Winter sweet (Chimonanthes praecox). On it's way is our magnificent Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica) with it's tiny scarlet sea anemonesque flower.

Chimonanthes praecox or 'Winter Sweet'. This one against the South/Eastish side of Barnsley House.

Well, I confess, the preceding words were written some weeks ago and now seem slightly tardy; but we have had a very mild winter (up to now) and the next couple of weeks could prove more seasonal. The Redwings and Fieldfares are still about in great numbers and geese graze the fields that flank the Thames. Chaffinches and Blackbirds are now singing.


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