The Countryside About Us March 1999

posted 1 Mar 2019, 09:30 by Earl Soham Web Admin
Another mild winter in early February has encouraged many birds, especially blackbirds, to begin to pair off. They will commence the age old routine of ensuring the species continues. Great and blue tits are examining likely nesting sites and the pugnacious robin is declaring territorial rights with its distinctive song. It never fails to astound me that only 12 to 15 days elapse, with the smaller birds, from the time a fertile egg is laid to a new chick hatching out from its shell. Of course that is only the beginning of the survival process. Many and varied are the hazards that lie ahead for such fragile creatures. This year, around here at any rate, there is a new threat. the grey squirrel. It is very much in evidence. Not content with denuding our nut trees of their autumn crops they also consume the birds’ eggs layed in the springtime especially if layed in open nests. These include the greenfinch and blackbird whose eggs provide a tasty meal for these predators. Encouraged by the generous supply of peanuts intended for the birds, squirrels have prospered recently. I can only hope the four that populate our garden, and those of my neighbours, soon pack their bags and seek their fortunes elsewhere! Even the House of Lords recently devoted a debate to the growing menace of the grey squirrel!

Occasionally, during the winter months, the Easton Harriers are in evidence. The hounds ”giving tongue” can be heard from quite a distance away. The very wet and consequently muddy conditions give the riders problems with keeping up with the hounds. This was clearly demonstrated a short time ago. I was helping a farmer friend in the next parish transfer some cattle from one yard to another. We were aware that the Harriers were in the vicinity having spotted a few riders in the distance. Suddenly, and silently, the farm yard was invaded by some 12 couples (they are referred to as “couples”) of hounds, no huntsmen or followers, just hounds! They “flowed” through the yard, noses seemingly invisibly fixed to the ground. The resident black Labrador and Jack Russell shocked and greatly outnumbered by the sudden invasion of their territory, quickly vanished. Just as quickly the hounds were also gone. Sometime later a loan rider arrived enquiring “had we seen the hounds?”! Meanwhile we watched a couple of hares. They doubled back to their field having run on and then turned back using a waterway to break their scent.

A feature still in early March in the ditches and banks, especially with a warm southern aspect, are the five petalled primroses. It heralds, I suggest, all that is to come in those lovely spring and summer days that lie ahead.

Roger Sykes