The Countryside About Us: April 1992

posted 2 Apr 2012, 08:15 by James Mansell
As an overture to spring, March excelled. Drifts of snowdrops carpeted old orchards. Early primroses could be found on sheltered banks and crocus brought some early colour to our village gardens. At the least excuse blackbird, robin and song thrush sang loudly to proclaim territorial rights. Even a pair of greater spotted woodpeckers were active around a partly dead oak tree nearby. In fact it has been quite a good winter for bird watching. Several yellowhammers, usually quite shy of human habitation, visited our garden. Always around looking for an opportunity to secure food, are the rooks and jackdaws. They seem to have a very effective “early warning” system. The moment anything edible appears they seem to arrive instantly from nowhere. The only bird that stands up to them seems to be our semi-tame cock pheasant. He is quite capable of seeing them off if they encroach on his particular tit bit! A diminutive tree creeper arrived to explore the bark of a willow tree. ”Creeper” describes them well. They methodically work their way from the base of a tree trunk to the top, only to fly down again and start their ascent all over again probing for insects in the bark crevices as they go. Interestingly enough, it is the only “land” bird with a curved beak

Sheltered paddocks which fringe our village provide nursery accommodation in a chilly springtime for ewes and their demanding lambs. There is much work and worry attached to the successful rearing of a batch of lambs, even though their life span from conception to consumption might only be about 10 months. Flockmasters and shepherds are ably assisted by the familiar black and white border collies. Invariably named Ben or Bess or some other single syllable name they are born with an instinctive urge to round up sheep (and anything else!) which only needs refining by training. Not as common here is the Australian sheep dog, one of which resides in a neighbouring parish. They take short cuts by running over the backs of the sheep. I cannot see our old Suffolk ewes putting up with that! 

Roger Sykes