Yesterday evening provided a striking sunset. The Sun appeared from behind the solid bank of cloud on its descent and glowed orange in a narrow, low band of clear sky on the horizon. The light was flooded out under the cloud bank across the reed beds, reflecting off the bottom of the clouds and the top of the rain-filled pools. The reeds edged the scene as inverted tassels against the glow.
Shelducks, a redshank and a typically morose heron were some of the few birds visible. Two hares raced around the pasture and a muntjac deer had come down and across the road from the heath onto the path. It disappeared in the dusk. Bats were active around the green and the village cats were gathering again.
That cloud bank dominated today. Sunlight made a brief appearance in the morning, but it soon dulled to leave a grey day. Mowing the grass was done with care. I had an eye out for a toad that had been seen by the tiny pond under the wild plum tree. The scent of fresh cut grass filled the air for much of the afternoon until the smell of cooking eventually predominated.
The grass cutting temporarily dissuaded the birds from the garden, but eventually chaffinches, sparrows and robins came back over the fence. The young robin with its parent frequently returned to feed, as well as a third beautifully marked solitary adult. Blue tits seem to have nested in the old nest box hung on the side of the shed.
The two brown rats made brief visits and stimulated vigorous investigations of possible hideaways. There are signs of their tunnelling, but of course they have chosen places that are not easily reached. The growing confidence of the clever rat has led to the re-siting of the bird fat, which now hangs in a small metal cage from the washing line. How attractive this is to the local bird fraternity is questionable. The nut feeders have also been moved to the far end of the garden near the shed. The birds will find them sooner or later, but they have plenty of naturally available food to eat at this time of year.
In the past few days I have seen many blackbirds of both sexes travelling with beaks filled with various small worms and centipedes. The earlier rain and now the mowing have encouraged the blackbirds to strut about on the lawn, tails proudly raised. These birds are enthusiastic in the pursuit of earthworms and they have been quick to take advantage of the need for the worms to move closer to the surface after the recent showers.
One thing that I need to investigate is the fascination that one chaffinch in particular seems to have with a shallow hollow in the lawn not far from the backroom window. It returns time and again and gets low into the same dip in the ground and busies itself with picking at the ground there. Are there ants there?
The yellow appearance of oak tree leaves is not good news, as I thought. Acute Oak Decline (AOD) is prevalent across East Anglia and in other regions of the British Isles. The appearance of young yellow leaves is a symptom ill-health.
The bark is badly affected by the disease and mature oaks, that might otherwise live for hundreds of years, are being killed off within four to five years by infection. There is research being carried out on whether the native oak jewel beetle is part of the problem, or whether it is attracted to the decaying bark of infected trees. The symptoms of this disease have been known of since 1918, but only now is an extensive research project being carried out.
This grey day passes quietly. No cuckoos that I am aware of, but a lark, the robins and blackbirds sing on regardless of the low light levels.
Along the footpaths, lanes and byways the Alexander plants are running riot in the absence of the local council verge trimming services; another consequence, dare I say, of central government cut-backs. One of the villagers has taken it on himself to tackle these invasive, gigantic, celery-like plants near his house with a sickle.
I enjoy talking with you this afternoon. The hundreds of kilometres of separation closes in an instant when I hear your voice.
3rd May, 2020