The Countryside About Us March 1998

posted 5 Mar 2018, 00:40 by Chris Hoare

Mad as a March hare” will probably have to be rewritten as “Mad as a December hare” I was looking across a field of winter wheat near Church Lane. This field is the boundary between Earl Soham parish and Brandeston,. Two hares were having a great time. It was only a few days after Christmas, but they were “boxing” and “chasing” as if it were March. There are reports of blackbirds nest building in January. At the same time quite large flocks of fieldfares and redwings were still foraging in the fields with apparently no thoughts of returning to their Scandinavian home. Such happenings made for confusion in what was the unchanging order of the seasons. Will it next be swallows arriving in early March ? Will we hear the cuckoo on St. Valentine’s day ? In the meantime however, how encouraging it is to be told that tree creepers are seen on our village trees. Even small groups of long tailed tits are copying their cousins by feeding from the winter bird tables. Of all the birds’ nests that are so cleverly constructed that of the long tailed tit is probably the most delicate. It is doom shaped and woven from moss and cobwebs.

For those of us with the time and inclination to wander about the countryside, the unexpected should come as no surprise! As I quietly approached a massive oak tree I caught a glimpse of a bird slipping away, alarmed at my approach. At the same time something dropped to the ground almost at my feet. Black feathers and a pair of feet was all that remained of a newly killed blackbird. A glance in the direction where the disturbed bird had gone revealed a sparrow hawk winging away at speed. A predator of quite a different kind and rather more unusual had also been reliably sighted in this area. Driving from Cretingham towards Earl Soham one evening, a local farmer and his daughter both saw quite distinctly a mink by the roadside. It was distinguished by its white markings. A mink it most certainly was. I am now peering with a greater concentration at the exposed mud banks by the river looking for tell tale “hand like” prints of this visitor.

Living in any community for harmony to exist, a little and indeed sometimes a lot,of understanding and tolerance of another’s activities is essential. Not least in a rural area. Those whose business it is to gain a living from the “scenery” find stray dogs, tresspace, gates left open and litter, causes of annoyance. The irritation and frustration of the non farming sector is following slow moving wide agricultural machinery on narrow roads, explosive gas guns and slurry odour on a hot summer evening. A local farmer thinks he may have found a remedy to the latter by adding, albeit an expensive concoction, to the slurry tanker before spreading the contents. Early trials suggest the all pervading aroma is neutralized. Maybe that will be one irritation to cross off the list!

Roger Sykes