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  • Writer's pictureIan Cognito

May 2021 - Through The Window by Ian Cognito

Updated: Jun 27, 2021

Apparently, this April saw the lowest average minimum temperatures in the UK recorded for an April since 1922. Certainly in Necton we had a run of chilly, frosty nights that carried on into the first week of May. Yet this April has also been the second sunniest April on record.

The run of frosty nights does not appear to have delayed blossom emerging. While walking and driving round the area there was plenty of Blackthorn blossom glowing white in the sunshine to be seen. And yellow aconites spotted peaking shyly out of the grass on embankments and on the side of ditches, such as along Ramm’s Lane. Yet to my mind, some trees are later in leafing up this year than they have done in past years.

But the good news, so far as I am concerned, is about the beech tree in my garden. Planted by a previous owner of the property, the tree is quite old. A few years back, when the so called ‘Beast From The East’ hit Norfolk, the tree was badly affected on the ‘weather’ side. The sunny side was okay, but the weather side lost its leaves and remained bare for a couple of years. We were afraid we might end up with a dead tree on our hands. However, this year has seen the tree leaf up totally. All is green, so far.

munjac nibbling on grass
Munjac do enjoy garden delights.

We had an interesting experience on one night. My wife and I were out quite late on the 3rd of May when we heard an eerie noise emanating from The Pit. At first it sounded like it might be a job for Quatermass. But we soon realised it was a muntjac deer ‘barking’ down in the pit. I am sure it would have been a muntjac and not a roe deer as I have seen a muntjac down in the pit before now. There are foxes around as well but their ‘bark’ is not quite the same. If you have ever heard a vixen giving cry while running along in the pitch dark you will know how that sound can make the hairs stand up on the back of the neck.

a bramling bird feeding on a garden feeder

One thing happened, which I guess could be described as a coincidence, or synchronicity, or perhaps just one of those things. We had made another visit to Lynford Arboretum and as we were walking down one of the tracks we could see ahead of us a group of about six people. All were armed with cameras and some had binoculars. One camera on a tripod had a lens so big I thought perhaps it was a film crew or local TV news or something. It turned out they were a group of birdwatchers (or twitchers). As we got level with them I asked what they were looking at. The reply was, a Brambling. I thought that was interesting. It is a couple of years since we had last seen a brambling in our garden. From what I recall reading, although not rare, they do not normally visit gardens. They habituate wooded areas and forests. It is only when their food supply gets scare that they come into gardens. We left the twitchers to it and it must have been a couple of hours later that we got home, sat down for a cuppa, glanced out the window, and there was a brambling. The first we had seen in years, just a short while after seeing the group of twitchers straining to see one. It only hopped around for a few minutes then jumped into the hedge and we have not seen it since. Apparently they migrate over to Europe to breed during our summer. Returning here in the autumn to spend winter here.

sparrow hawk landed by side of water
Surprise landing for this sparrow hawk

While on the subject of birds, it is interesting to see blackbirds and a wren walking on the surface of our pond. There is a mass of oxygenating plants just under the surface and they can land and walk on this right out to the centre of the pond. The blackbirds pick up water snails to eat, but I am not sure what the wren is eating. The strangest sight though was when a sparrow hawk landed in the pond. I do not know who was more surprised - us or it. The water was not where it wanted to be and it flew off to a tree.

The pond is producing some other good sights. The first being that of frogs spawning and tadpoles emerging from the mass of spawn. Such is nature that the tadpoles are really a meal on the move for a lot of creatures. Sticklebacks are showing their mating colours. If one zips by and the sun shines off its side the colour really glows. So far I have not seen any grass snakes swimming across the pond as I saw last year but they could be about. Bog Bean plants have done really well this year and are producing some good flowers.

baby hedgehog in hand
Pedro on his way home from PACT

A less welcome sight during the daylight was that of a hedgehog walking around the garden. It looked just about okay weight-wise. It scurried off before we could think about catching it. Before now we have taken underweight hedgehogs to the PACT sanctuary. The last one was before Christmas. It was a tiny little hoglet. We called it Pedro, I do not know why. It survived and we went back to PACT and collected it to release into the garden. There was enough time for it to nest and hibernate before the cold really set in. As hedgehogs began to come out of hibernation this year we have seen a couple of them after dark in the garden. They look quite a good size. It is strange how they ignore us and the dog. They do not seem perturbed at all. Hopefully, one of those will be Pedro. The one we saw in the daytime is a cause for concern. Being nocturnal, if a hedgehog is out during the day it has a problem of some kind. We put some tinned cat food near where we had seen the hedgehog go out of sight. Come the following morning most of the cat food had gone. But there is no knowing who ate it. If we see it again in daytime, and we can catch it we will take it to PACT.

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