How many of us like January? So far, this month has been very drab with grey skies, plenty of drizzle, dark mornings and with spring seemingly so far away. Still, I prefer a drab January to a drab November. At least we are moving in the right direction. Spring is on its way, isn’t it? At this time of the year I always search for signs of spring. What is there? Well, every morning I am serenaded by a mistle thrush. Great spotted woodpeckers are drumming and occasionally a green woodpecker “laughs” at me. Every day now I see snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils are poking through the ground and the redwings have eaten all the berries in my hedge. Not many signs of spring I agree but one has to be optimistic – perhaps I feel this way because I am doing some research on cuckoos. What would we do if there were no cuckoos – I would feel lost.
Early each morning as I make my way slowly to Grundisburgh, I hear the drone of an aeroplane. If the skies are clear I see this plane. It is a C130 Hercules. Marshalls of Cambridge care for these workhorses but I have a feeling that the planes that I see are heading for the American airbase at Mildenhall. This morning, as I reached my journey’s end, the usual droning filled the air. Most mornings I don’t even bother to glance upwards but this morning I did. This long-bodied 4-engined aircraft came slowly out of the clouds heading west but, below this plane, noiseless but with fixed wings and considerably smaller and lower than the C130, was a buzzard. Not a common buzzard but a rough-legged buzzard. This beautiful bird of prey is a winter visitor to East Anglia, quite rare but I expect to see a few each winter. Some years ago, the RSPCA brought to me a rough-legged buzzard which was starving. I force-fed this bird and after a few days successfully released it on Sutton Heath. A friend, a real country lad, was amazed when I pointed out the buzzard to him. He had not realised that a buzzard made a droning noise. Ah, well.
Last Friday, pheasants were released into a nearby field ready to be shot on the Saturday! As I cycled home on Saturday morning, 8 pairs of guns were strategically placed on this arable field whilst in the distance beaters were moving forward. Luckily I had left before the foreboding slaughter took place. Usually the following day I see no pheasants as they tend to get killed. I rounded the farm buildings on the way to my studio on the Monday and there, under my bird table waiting for grain, were half a dozen cock pheasants. Clever birds! Now every day they wait for me to feed them. What-ho!
In the past I have suggested that those interested in nature should visit the Norfolk coast in January to see the grey seal pups. This area is cared for by the Friends of Horsey Seals who do a marvellous job fencing off the area, providing walkways for visitors as well as parking. How disappointing therefore to learn that 4 baby seals have died, most probably due to disturbance by sightseers. Now I have been so far quite polite about this but I am astonished at the ignorance and selfishness of some seal visitors. It is suggested that female seals deserted their pups because idiots tried to take ‘selfies’ with the young seals. One man even placed his child on a seal so that he could photograph this bizarre composition seemingly unaware of the danger the child was in since even seal pups have sharp teeth. Another idiot sent a drone over the seal colony which of course caused panic to the animals. Obviously, the majority of visitors to Horsey are more respectful but, once again, a few ignorant people can spoil it for everyone and in particular for the seals.