At L’Arche Kent we cannot let a year go by without some of us joining in the BBC and RSPB’s* annual Big Bird Watch – spending an hour at the Glebe,§ watching to see how many species and how many individuals call in to our feeding stations.
Nothing exotic here! The parakeets have not arrived yet, there must be plenty of pickings in the Thanet seaside towns to encourage them to say.
But we saw seven sparrows at once and a pair of moorhens: as you see, we are at the riverside. We were quite surprised not to spot any wood pigeons, but when our photographer went to speak to someone at the other end of the garden he saw that they had been there all the time, behind the shed and out of sight. The rats were there all the time too, but then it was the first day of the Year of the Rat.
As ever, the afternoon ended with a shared meal, in thanks for a shared afternoon enjoying creation.
*BBC – British Broadcasting Corporation, the radio and tv people; RSPB – Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
§ Glebe: a plot of land for the priest to grow food on: a church allotment.
We recently heard from George, who has just started working in Cambridge, full of glee because the parrots are now living in Cambridge. He’s also seen them very much at home in Thanet, London and Manchester. How long before they colonise Canterbury?
This one ripping cherry blossom to pieces was in Amsterdam but could have been up to the same tricks in any of the English places mentioned.
This morning, as the curtains opened, here were three wood pigeons in the birch tree – and one still next-door, in the lime. Everyone in this picture is keeping a social distance, but it’s still four weeks to the birds’ wedding day on Saint Valentine’s.
Every year the wood pigeons nest in the tall birch in next door’s garden, while there are two old collared doves’ nests in our apricot tree.
Usually the pigeons stick together, perched in the same tree, even upon the same branch, but this month one of them has been resting in one of the lime (tillia) trees we planted after the hurricane, which are now big enough to take a collared doves’ nest at least. The two birds were within sight of each other.
Which tree would the wood pigeons choose? Were they utterly estranged, or perhaps strangers to each other; I had no way of telling. But this morning both were in the birch tree. An early sign of Spring?
Yesterday, 2nd January, I surprised this pheasant within Canterbury’s city walls. He flew up from the river bridge into the former Tannery housing development as I cycled over the Stour, and ended up perched on this window sill.
I guess he had escaped the New Year’s shoots somewhere to the West of town and followed the river’s green corridor, across the main road and Saint Mildred’s churchyard till it narrowed to the width of the river and a row of old willows with the flat faces of the homes hard against them. He had perhaps been sharing the ducks’ breadcrumbs at river level, and panicked when I rolled up.
When we moved to our home in Canterbury there were house martins nesting on neighbours’ houses; we did not get them because the chicks would have baked in the direct noonday sun. One house opposite had hung little balls from the eaves to warn the martins off. Super house proud, or possibly paranoid about droppings. Remember Tobit!
It’s been years since there was any excuse for excluding the birds. No martins have nested hereabouts for many years. Newcomers have never seen them nesting: what you don’t know, you don’t miss. The same goes for the martins: their memory of living on our street has gone; they will not return.
I’ve seen very few matins or swallows this year, but last week as I was walking across the field behind our house I saw two martins overhead. I guess a couple of this year’s brood, getting into fettle for the flight to Africa. God Speed them there and safely back!
We could have called this the hedge trimmer’s reward, because it was an hour’s work on the rampant ivy that brought these two creatures to light. Notice how the golden moth’s pattern breaks up its shape, and in the other picture, the grey moth matches the spider’s nest web to its left. The hedge provides a home for these creatures, away from most of their predators, so it will be trimmed, not massacred, every couple of years. More welcoming for insects and than the plain brick wall that was here when we moved in; it houses robins and blackbirds most years.