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Whitebeam leaves emerging

Dear Readers, this morning I got up a little late, after a disturbed night’s sleep, and decided to sit on the patio for my morning coffee. I haven’t been doing this and I have no idea why – I suppose everything has felt like too much effort. But as I looked around I realised that the world has been getting on very nicely without me. Look at the leaves on the whitebeam for example – at this time of year they sparkle silver in the slightest breeze.

A blue tit sits on the highest branch and scolds everything in the vicinity.

It’s a veritable Noah’s ark: there are a pair of blue tits, a pair of great tits, a pair of robins (I  know they’re a pair because they aren’t fighting), a pair of blackbirds and a pair of collared doves.

Some  of the animals are looking distinctly ropey though. This great tit looks decidedly below par.

Great tit (Parus major)

I am hoping it’s not the dreaded Avian Pox, but I will be giving all the feeders a good douse in antiseptic just in case. If I see any more birds that are affected the advice is to reduce feeding, which I will do. It’s just a shame at this time of year, when so many birds are incubating or feeding young.

And just to add to the drama, this collared dove has obviously had a close encounter, though I’m not sure with what.

Collared dove with chest injury

The bird seems to be flying and feeding normally but it’s difficult to see how deep the wound is. Pigeon feathers are very loosely attached, and come away easily, so maybe it’s not as dramatic as it looks. I shall keep an eye on the bird, but the chance of getting any treatment for it at the moment seems very slim. The bird’s mate is in the garden too and seems completely unconcerned.

But the main glory of the garden at the moment is the congregation of starlings. One sat in the tree and gave a great impression of a dog, following much whistling and tzicking and dancing. Sadly there was no point in recording it because the warm weather has also brought out the strimmers and lawnmowers and, dare I say it, a distant leaf blower.

The blackbirds are a delight: looking at my photos of the male, the slight chestnut tinge to his primary feathers makes me think that he might be a first-year bird, with his first mate. I wonder if the responsibility weighs heavily on him? I was pleased to observe that he saw off another male, so he is appropriately territorial. The female foraged for worms right next to the table where I was sitting: it has been very dry, so I think I might get the hose out later and give the place a water. The damper soil might bring some worms to the surface so that the hen blackbird can get a meal. I noticed that she didn’t seem to be collecting anything to take back to the nest, so probably she’s just incubating at the moment.

Young male blackbird

The goldfinches are looking splendid, and are dividing their time between the nyjer seed feeder next door and the sunflower seeds in my garden. In an ideal world everyone could work together to create one big, long habitat, with a whole variety of different food plants and niches for a range of creatures. But maybe that happens accidentally already? Certainly no two gardens are the same on the County Roads.

Goldfinches

I am delighted to see that the hairy-footed flower bees are out and about: they seem to love the flowers on my flowering currant, and it’s all the nicer because this was a self-seeded plant that I moved a couple of years ago. It is a much lighter pink than its parent, which gives me a whole new appreciation for genetic diversity. The bee in the picture is a female (they are a jet-black colour). The males are tawnier with a white stripe on their face, but they seem few and far between around here at the moment. Have you noticed any, UK friends?

Hairy-footed flower bee

And I’m pleased to say that after my drastic clear-out of the garden a few months ago, some of my favourite weeds are coming back.

I love the shadow of this greater celandine, and the lovely hairy buds. This was the plant that was carved onto Wordsworth’s tomb, even though his actual favourite plant was the lesser celandine. Oh well, we can’t always get everything right.

Greater celandine

My lovely friend J gave me some forget-me-nots last year, and they have taken to life in the garden with great enthusiasm. I am trying to get that ‘woodland glade’ look, and they are helping no end, along with the windflowers that I planted.

Forget-me-nots

Windflowers

And I am extremely tolerant of the dandelions, with their abundant pollen and sunny little faces.

Dandelion

I had forgotten the great calm that descends when I sit in the garden and get engrossed in all the goings on. I am still numb from the shock of losing Dad, but somehow listening to the birds and the hum of the bees makes room for a little window of feeling to open. I can feel sad, but somehow held at the same time. When Mum died, everything was still normal for everyone else, and that could sometimes make it very hard: I felt as if I was walking through the world having lost a layer of skin. But everything is so out of joint at the moment, and everyone is struggling, so strangely enough I don’t feel so alone. We live in such peculiar times, but having the chance to just sit and listen, to unfurl like one of the leaves on my tree, seems such a blessing. I am so, so lucky to have a little bit of outside space, to have good neighbours, and to still be being paid, and I never for a second forget that for other people the current lockdown is unbearable. I wish everyone the solace of the natural world, the chance to be among plants and animals, and the opportunity to find some peace there.

 

16 thoughts on “Home

  1. Anne

    Those of us with gardens are fortunate indeed: I find great solace in mine (if I ignore all the work that needs to be done in it!) along with the comings and goings of birds, insects and lizards.

    Reply
  2. Alittlebitoutoffocus

    We spend hours watching (and listening to) the birds which come and go to our feeder. My wife has an excellent ear for the different sounds and instantly notices something ‘different’. We are still trying to identify a stranger which has been perching in our tree, but has yet to show itself fully to get a decent sight or photo. Yesterday morning a siskin and a male and female greenfinch made a brief appearance outside the kitchen window, but we never saw them again. We also feared that our pair of crested tits had become one, but the two have been seen together over the past week or so. I’m sure they are all completely oblivious to the joy and solace they bring. 😊

    Reply
    1. Bug Woman Post author

      Oooh keep me posted about your mystery bird – I do love an unusual visitor! And very pleased to hear that your crested tits are still a pair. The trouble with having garden birds is how attached one becomes – I still remember the trauma when a sparrowhawk took out the male of our blackbird pair. That’s nature for you, I guess….

      Reply
      1. Alittlebitoutoffocus

        Yes, we’ve seen a sparrowhawk swoop by twice, but I’m not sure it got anything. It all happens so fast it’s quite alarming. I’ll let you know if we identify the mystery bird. 😊

      2. Bug Woman Post author

        I had one fly over my shoulder and into a bush full of sparrows once – it was so close that it’s wing nearly brushed my face. What a shock! They are superb predators though…

  3. penthompson

    I’m glad you are finding solace in your garden after your dad’s death. You’re right , I too feel so lucky to have a garden and with this blissful weather, sitting out and listening and watching the birds is a treat. Our hellebores and primulas are flourishing , and our small dramatic purplish magnolia is opening up. These are all reasons to be cheerful in lockdown. On our daily constitutional in Chatsworth Park, we are seeing spring literally springing on the early trees . So it’s more important than ever to hold onto Hope and behave with Kindness . Take care . #HopeandKindness

    Reply
  4. FEARN

    “…but they seem few and far between around here at the moment. Have you noticed any, UK friends?”

    It might be a bit early in the season for male bumblebees, don’t you think?. As I understand it (from my recent reading) only the female queens survive the winter and they then have ‘worker’ daughters to start with before a hormonal switch is flicked in time to produce male offspring. These males search for mates and , successful or not, die. The resulting fertilised queens alone overwinter in an underground nest before emerging in spring to find suitable locations to set up home.

    Reply
    1. Bug Woman Post author

      Hi Fearn, lovely to ‘see’ you here! I agree wholeheartedly about male bumblebees, but these little critters are flower bees, who are solitary – the males and females normally emerge at the same time. In many species, more females than males survive at times of hardship so it would be interesting to know if my anecdotal ‘evidence’ is supported by actual science (though no one is out and about at the moment sadly).

      Reply
  5. Gail

    Gardens are such a privilege, I hadn’t really appreciated quite how much until now. And although I am hugely sorry for the reason, I am enjoying the downtime that covid has given me. I’m noticing and enjoying so many things I couldn’t before. Thank you for your writing, I enjoy it so much and trust that its making gives you solace too. xx

    Reply
  6. Liz Norbury

    Your descriptions of your visit to Borneo and the wildlife you encountered were a revelation. I had no idea that it was such an extraordinary place: no wonder you wanted to go there. But your post today is a reminder of the fascinating lives being lived in our own backyards – literally, in this case! I’m so glad that they’re bringing your solace. April takes me by surprise every year. Suddenly, the day begins early, and the hedges bordering my path to the beach are a froth of blackthorn, alive with the song of hidden blackbirds.

    Reply

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