The Countryside About Us - March 1995

posted 2 Mar 2015, 12:35 by James Mansell
A plant’s root system requires the nutrition it gets from the soil to be in soluble form, in particular the nitrogen, phosphates and potash.  When you think about the  recent continuous wet conditions to which our farmland  and gardens  have been subjected , it should come as no surprise  to realise  that  some of the  soluble plant food  has by now, finished up in the North Sea!  You will notice that many fields of winter sown cereals  have a very “yellowish” look about them, a sure sign  of that condition familiar to we humans  but also applicable to plants i.e. “stress”.  Judicious use of artificial fertilizer will be required to compensate for the losses. Many farmers and gardeners have their soil analysed to ascertain just what levels of nutrients exist so that more accurate compensations for deficiencies can be made.  Nature is very good at making her own adjustments but a little help from us does make quite a difference to the end result.

By all accounts, and in particular those I have read in our East Anglian Daily Times newspaper, many areas report a marked decline  in our local wild bird population. One poor soul from Leiston wrote to say her garden was totally bereft of all bird life.  Maybe there is, in Leiston,  a large population of cats! I am relieved to record that at any rate in this part of Earl Soham, I seem to have, if anything, more birds visiting the “MacDonalds “of the bird world, than in previous winter times.  The only normally regular species I have not recorded this year is the coal tit, a constant  visitor last year.  It is important that once you begin to feed the garden birds in late autumn you continue to do so right through the winter.  They do tend to become dependent on a food source once it becomes established. For those who like “statistics”  it may be of passing interest  that the daily cost of keeping filled my two peanut feeders between  October and early March , with no interruption to the supply, was 8p per day! It was quite rare not to see tits, and quite often a greater spotted woodpecker, feeding from them.  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 nesting box, to RSPB specifications. The proceeds from their sale go to St Elizabeth’s Hospice. Many of these boxes have been placed in the reserve woods at Minsmere. The last year’s hatch figures were published from there and very good they are too.  In several instances there were clutches of 10 eggs and 10 fledglings, blue or great tits, being reared.

As is common place 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 a corner of a cattle yard which the mother shared with some 10 other “mums” and a bull.  One could be forgiven for a certain concern that such a fragile new life lying in the straw could easily be 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”.  Well maybe in some cases we humans have something to learn from them too.

Roger Sykes