One morning early last week I looked out of my bedroom window and saw that there had been a massacre in my garden. The lawn was covered in large black feathers. Not that fox again, the one that digs up my potato patch and jumps over a six foot fence when he sees me. Still in my pyjamas I wrenched open the back door and found – not the remains of a crow or a jackdaw but lots of spent tulip petals (black ones)! Now in this situation one has to see the funny side of such events. Yes, I know I am stupid! Now I expect to make mistakes because I am only me. However, I don’t really expect to see glaring mistakes in national publications. This week I was reading through the BBC Wildlife Magazine, a very lavish and glossy thing, when I found a picture of an orchid which was described as an ‘early spider orchid’ except that it wasn’t. It was quite obviously a bee orchid. I find mistakes like that quite annoying and this is not the first time that I have noticed mistakes in this magazine. Mind you, I suppose the editorial staff can easily tell the difference between a dead crow and a bunch of wind-blown tulip petals.
I cannot remember the last time a cuckoo was heard in our Park. It is common knowledge that cuckoos have decreased over the last 25 years but, glory be, Marie Stewart told me she had heard one calling in the wooded part of Christchurch Park at 10.15 am on 15 May. Both Marie and her husband Richard heard this bird that was still calling two hours later. Richard suggests this cuckoo was passing through since it has not been heard since.
I wonder how many of you noticed a very important piece of bird news in the East Anglian Daily Times last week? A pair of ravens fledged young in East Suffolk this year (ravens nest very early). The nest was kept secret but the article did reveal that the nest was on top of a pylon! This is the first recorded breeding of ravens in Suffolk since 1880. I firmly believe that there are more ravens floating over our county than has been reported. The raven is a large crow about 6 inches larger than a rook or carrion crow. See a raven with a crow or rook and the difference is obvious because of the sizes but a raven on its own with no other corvid present for comparison can be difficult to identify. An expert knows that a raven can be recognised by its large size and its wedge-shaped tail.
The advantage of cycling through the countryside is that I can both see and hear much more than those who rush around in cars. I hear buzzards calling as well as cuckoos, blackbirds, song thrushes and mistle thrushes and, in this gorgeous month of May, I find the nests of common whitethroats, lesser whitethroats and blackcaps in the scrubby roadside verges. I see goldfinches nesting high up in the hawthorn bushes, little owls glaring at me from the oak boughs and hear green woodpeckers ‘laughing’ as they search for ants. There seems to be more skylarks this year – three pairs were nesting in a large field at Culpho. This field had been barren for many months with grass and weeds taking over. In the middle of May, however, when the skylarks eggs had hatched, the ‘potato merchants’ moved in. This field had never grown potatoes before so the skylarks had to go. ‘Spuds’ are more important than larks.
The large shed that I laughingly call my studio is made of wood. It is old and many of the knots have become actual holes. This year blue and great tits nested in the wall cavity. However, I spend a great deal of time rushing outside as I hear “bang, bang, bang”. Great spotted woodpeckers are gradually enlarging these holes despite some being reinforced with metal. These woodpeckers are partial to young birds.