Sunday, 27 February 2011

Dawn chorus

After a harsh winter it is wonderful to be woken by the blackbirds mellow spring song.  How many people hear it now the outside world is muffled by double glazed windows?  They may keep in warmth and unwanted sounds out but they also cut us off from the sounds of nature. 

Early this morning I  Iwent out walking with Pops, my dog,  I saw blackbirds busy finding nest material.  I heard robins dueling with song for territory and the busy chatter of sparrows.  But it is turning colder again so there was no sign of  the Brimstone butterfly I had seen last week flying dozily along the lane  ..

We walked down to my allotment and just as we arrived a kestrel was  hovering stationary above the  plot;  suddenly  it  swooped down and caught a mouse.   Then  it  perched on a nearby fence to eat it.   I was too slow to get my own camera out, but here is  superb picture by Nigel Blake of a kestrel's stationary flight.  A beautiful bird and powerful hunter a kestrel's  eyesight is so keen it can  see and catch a beetle from 50 metres away.

Kestrels are sometimes mobbed by other birds, I have seen them being attacked by a flock of starlings.  Last week I saw a Kestrel being mobbed by three seagulls.  The screams and shrieks of the seagulls as they chased the kestrel  drew the attention of us all.  It was amazing to watch the birds wheel and dive on the kestrel.  The kestrel used its flying skills to plummet towards the ground and then shoot skyward. The seagulls could not match the agility of the Kestrel in the air and it  eventually escaped.

Today all the birds around my plot were quiet until the kestrel moved away. .A  robin soon began to sing as I dug  holes in the beds to plant two new trees.   One is a victoria plum Tree the other is a crab apple tree.  I began  digging down to put in the plum tree  but I had hardly gone more than a spit (a spades depth) before I hit stone and clay. 

The allotments at Eastney and Milton are on the site of  Arundel to Portsmouth Canal.  It was built in 1823 by the  Portsmouth & Arundel Navigation company it didn't make money.  It was abandoned in 1855. The allotments are now on the canal site. Part of my allotment is on the what was the tow path so there is a core of clay and stone quite near the surface of my beds.  This was what I had hit. 

I had to wheel barrow compost and manure to add depth to the bed  before  I could plant and stake the tree.  The Robin appreciated the manure heap being turned over and was soon busy investigating the bugs and worms that had been uncovered.  Robins are fearless birds he, or she, sat on a willow whip inches from where I was working The crab tree I planted at the bottom of my plot.   This end of my plot  was part of the canal bed and it has more depth to the soil so the work was easier.

It was then time to put on the kettle for a cup of tea.  It  was really lovely to sit by my shed  on a beautiful February day, my dog along side me,and be so close to the sea and nature. Oh!  That does sound like a cliche!  But hey it is  one I am happy to live.  

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