The Countryside About Us - April 1995

posted 4 Apr 2015, 11:29 by James Mansell
New phrases that creep into our everyday usage sometimes manage to describe very well feelings and ideas. One such recent addition if removed completely from its original political connotation illustrates what I mean. The “feel good factor”, as far as I know, has never been applied to a fresh and sunny springtime morning. But for me, and you too I expect, the first venture outside on such a day induces the “feel good factor” that no political party could hope to match!  If you want to further enhance the situation, walk by the old orchard just past the chestnut trees edging Earl Soham green and admire the carpet of snowdrops  that clothe the ground.  It was late February this year before they produced their usual harbinger of spring.  The rooks opposite, high up in the oak trees, had for sometime been repairing their nests, seemingly unaffected by the factors that governed the snowdrops. Like the early daffodils, crocus and celandines, February frosts and sub zero temperatures kept them dormant for a few weeks longer than previous less-frigid years. In many of our gardens that casual glance at a small patch of early colour induced by warm sunshine creates the thought of better times ahead.

Another harbinger of recent springs that asserted itself rather more forcibly than bird song and carpets of snowdrops was the “gas gun” pigeon scarer. On bright frosty mornings in particular its resonance could be spectacular!  Have you noticed that this year, generally speaking, their explosive absence?  It would seem large flocks of hungry pigeons feeding off oil seed rape crops are not the threat of former years. Thankfully, the immense flocks of fieldfares and redwings  provide no threat to brassicas.  By now many acres of rape will be making strong growth, propelled upwards by the top dressings of nitrogen applied in February. But where have all the lapwings or peewits gone? I noticed only one, and that was hopping around the Low Meadows with just one good leg to use. I fear it did not survive.

Many and varied are the bird feeders that can be obtained to fill with peanuts. Some types of feeders are particularly frustrating for the tits and finches to extract the nuts. I have noticed that the small green mesh bags that are frequently purchased already filled with nuts are depleted very slowly even in cold and harsh weather. This suggests the birds find it exceedingly difficult obtaining the contents. Quite a good idea is to empty out the peanuts and crush them before refilling the bag. This fulfills two purposes. Firstly it enables  the birds to get at the small nut pieces more easily and, secondly, small fragments fall to the ground which provide tiny pieces for birds like chaffinches that prefer to eat at ground level.. By the way, were you fortunate enough to see those waxwings ?

Roger Sykes