The Countryside About Us August 1997

posted 31 Jul 2017, 00:25 by Chris Hoare
For sheer penetration of its sound the cuckoo must rival even a Brigade of Guards drill sergeant! “Early one morning” to quote the opening lines of an old ballad, a cuckoo called from the branches of a nearby oak tree. This call restored me from blissful sleep to “red alert” in no time, such was the penetration. I wish all birds were so easy to identify by their song. I once asked a cousin of mine who played the French Horn in the Hallé Orchestra, if when listening to a recording of a symphony could he say by whom it was being conducted! He replied “Not necessarily, but I certainly know who it is not!” It is the same with me recognizing bird song. I know which bird it is not, but not always which bird it is!

One Thursday afternoon in June I heard no bird song at all. This could easily be explained. I was escorting a lively group of youngsters from the Earl Soham After School Club on a nature ramble. Fortunately the lively chatter did not frighten away the trees, hedgerows and crops in the fields! As we wended our way along the footpaths their enthusiasm to identify the trees, bushes and herbage we saw, was encouraging. Along Church Lane as we walked under that lovely canopy of branches, we compared the leaves of the oak, ash and chestnut trees with the illustrations in our “Naturalist Guide” book . Thus began the list of “things seen and recognized”. On over the old railway sleeper bridge and along the footpath our 10 year old scribe was able to add to her list dog rose, blackthorn and hawthorn. The oil seed rape and sugarbeet crops were associated with fried breakfasts and sweetened cereals. We even identified a spindle tree on the woodside. Tiggy the foal was, I insisted, quietly admired. We distinguished between wheat and barley, and discovered grasses all had different names, like foxtail, timothy and cocksfoot. Maybe this ramble with a purpose might just sow the seeds that could germinate into “countryside about us” interests for some of those youngsters in the future.

Fledglings were appearing with regularity in June. Some, sadly, will succumb to the excessive wet weather that greeted their partly feathered and fragile bodies. Ground nesting birds like the partridge and pheasant in particular will have their numbers depleted in such wet conditions. On June 25th, in the rain three baby swallows emerged from their nest and perched alongside their parents on the nearby wire. They were not in the least perturbed by the pouring deluge. Neither was the farmer who managed to cut his hay, bale and cart home the bales, just before the heavens opened!

Roger Sykes