The Countryside About Us - April 1994

posted 6 Apr 2014, 11:49 by James Mansell
A plant’s root system requires the nutrition it gets from fertilizers that supply nitrogen, phosphates and potash in particular, in soluble form. When you dwell on the recent memory of continuous wet conditions to which our farmland and gardens have been subjected , it should come as no surprise  to realise  that much of the soluble plant food  has by now, finished up in the North Sea ! You are   bound to notice that many fields of winter sown cereals have a very “yellowish” look about them - a sure sign of conditions familiar to humans but also applicable to plants ie “stress”.  Much judicious applications of fertilizers, especially nitrogen, will be required to compensate for the losses. Many growers have their soil analysed to ascertain just what levels of soil nutrients are available  so that an accurate compensation  for deficiencies  can be made.  Nature is very good at making her own adjustments for wild pendulum swings but a little help from us does make quite a difference to the end result.

Some accounts, and in particular those I have read in the East Anglian Daily Times newspaper, report a marked decrease in our garden and farmland birds. One poor soul from Leiston wrote to say her garden was totally bereft of all bird life!  Maybe there is, in Leiston, a high cat population? I am relieved to report that, at any rate, in this part of Earl Soham I seem to have, if anything, more birds visiting my “MacDonalds” of the bird world, than in previous winters. The only regular species I have not noticed this year is the coal tit, a frequent visitor last year. It is important that once you begin to feed the birds in late autumn you continue right through the winter time as they do tend to become dependent on a food source once it becomes established. For those of you who like statistics it may be of passing interest to learn that my daily cost of keeping feeders full from October to early March in our garden with no interruptions to the supply was 8p per day!   It was quite unusual not to see tits and often a greater spotted woodpecker, feeding from the various feeders. It is probably too late now to renew nest boxes, but should you feel the need, a gentleman living in Worlingworth makes a very good tit box, to R.S.P.B. specifications, and the proceeds from their sale go to St.Elizabeth’s Hospice.  Many of these boxes have been placed in the reserve woods at Minsmere. Last years hatch figures from Minsmere were published and very good they were too.  In several instances there were clutches of 10 eggs and 10 fledglings, both blue and great tits, surviving and reared.

As common place as it is on many farms, the successful birth of another calf never passes without a quiet feeling of relief and satisfaction.   One such birth took place recently in the corner of a cattle yard which the mother shared with some ten other”mums” and a bull. One could be forgiven for a certain concern that such a fragile new life lying in the straw would be so easily trampled on.  It was a revelation to see the care those cattle took to ensure no harm came to the new arrival.   Sometimes I hear the critical expression”behaved like animals!”  Maybe in some cases we humans have something to learn from them as well. 

Roger Sykes
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