July 2010

Can anyone remember what I wrote this time last year? No? [But we can look it up in the features archives. Ed. ; ) ] Thank goodness for that, so I can just cut and paste.

OK! OK! June 2010 has been a lot drier and hotter than last year’s version of events, and so the tone of the countryside is also very different. We were commenting on how dried the grass was in the verges and field headlands. Farmers are working all hours cutting and making hay whilst the sun shines but everything has a sleepy, siesta feeling about it. The first of our human summer migrants have reappeared filling the lay bys and car parks with campervans sporting Dutch, Swedish and German number plates. They seem a jolly lot and certainly appreciate the beautiful countryside that surrounds and cossets us. University students have started to reappear although I think they may be quite nocturnal in their habits – they can easily be identified by their pallid colouring as they gather in pubs late into the evening! Later in the summer they can be spotted hauled out on some of our loveliest beaches, doing their best to rid themselves of the “student uni. pallor”. We’ve all raised these ugly ducklings! Sometimes they turn into swans, sometimes… I will leave you to fill in the gap!

But back to nature proper; most resident birds have fledged at least one brood of chicks, we have blue tits nesting in a box we put up and doing their level best to fill the Roseland with their own kind. The latest brood fledged last week. It was great fun to stand off a little and watch the parent birds entice their reluctant off spring out with the delights of juicy green grubs and the threat of starvation if they stayed where they were. You could easily imagine the parallels – “No, I am not bringing your breakfast in; you have to get out of bed, get up!”

So, the hedgerows are full of baby birds, fresh from the nest. If you think about it,there should really be no better opportunity of seeing birds in large numbers. But then think about this; something like a pair of blue tits will lay maybe 15-20 eggs in a season, and they breed for say 3 seasons so the attrition rate needed to even balance a population means that of the 45-60 offspring such a pair could generate only two will survive to carry the gene pool forward. By now we should be ankle deep in dead fledglings! This winter saw huge drops in small bird populations across Europe so hopefully we can all do what we can to increase this year’s survival rate of the newest additions to our local fauna. One bird I have been seeing a lot of recently is the kingfisher down on St Just Pool. But, I have only seen one at any one time, which may be a little limiting in the repopulation process.

But nature is nothing if not stubborn. I have just been for a short walk in the mid evening, it’s quite grey out there now and a breeze has sprung up. Rain is forecast later and tomorrow, but I just walked up through the village with my telescope and binoculars. House sparrows are in abundance at the moment, as are Dunnock and their broods. I saw two Cormorants fly over and goldfinches scolded me from some telephone wires. I was out much less than an hour, I didn’t go very far, but the peace of the countryside just soaked right in! I hope you get to enjoy the beauty that surrounds.

Ian Bennett

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