The Countryside about Us September 1999

posted 4 Sep 2019, 03:43 by Earl Soham Parish Council
Impressions one gets locally concerning whether or not there are more or less numbers of certain birds need not necessarily reflect the true wider state of affairs. Nevertheless, observations from interested people I speak to certainly suggest that the number of swallows and house martins are certainly down on a few year’s past. The annual visitation of a pair of swallows that regularly nest in my pony’s stable however, again successfully reared 3 youngsters. It is almost a privilege to clear up the mess the droppings make beneath the nest. If the parents intend producing a second brood I hope they will soon get on with it. Otherwise the youngsters will be too young to make their first migratory trip to Africa in October. Nesting house martins are also unpopular because of the evidence they leave on paintwork and window sills. On the other hand those restless creatures the swifts are rather more visible. Elsewhere I have been told of finding, in their garden, the dome like nest of a pair of long tailed tits and also sightings of the acrobatic flycatcher. What I think I miss most of all nowadays in the spring and summertime, are the skylarks. Some localities seem more fortunate than others, but as the RSPB reports skylarks and lapwings amongst other species of farmland birds, are in serious decline. During August the mountain ash or, as it is sometimes called, the rowan berry tree, will be stripped of its berries by the industrious blackbirds and thrushes. How important it is for them to build up their body condition to enable them to survive the hard winter days that lay ahead. Hence the importance of delaying hedge cutting until their “harvest” is also “gathered in”.

Knowledge of “The birds and bees” in a more subtle age, provided an introduction and education into the basic reproduction process! At Moat Farm recently the phase, in its literal meaning, was delightfully illustrated. Of course in that idyllic location, birds abound. Even a pair of barn owls has been sighted. And the bees? Well during some excavations a bumble bee nest was disturbed. Rather bravely, I thought, they were gathered up and relocated under a box, complete with suitable entrance. They must have approved as they quickly settled down in their new quarters.

I read somewhere that ants would not venture near copper. The cavity underneath a step leading into our house has always supported a colony which I would have preferred elsewhere. I decided to put the theory to the test. Sacrificing the spending power of 10 new pence I placed the 2p coins by the entrance to their domain. For several days not an ant appeared. The theory looked like being proven. Well at least until a particular humid evening when the biggest swarm of ants I have seen for some time, congregated both inside and outside the room. The words “don’t panic” spring to mind. Within the hour, left to their own complex community arrangements, not an ant was to be seen. But so much for the copper!

Roger Sykes

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