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  • Writer's pictureIan Cognito

Through the window in July

While walking round the field alongside Chapel Road a couple of weeks ago we were startled when there was a sudden burst of activity around our feet. There were little blobs of feather rushing off to the side and vanishing in the potato crop, while ahead of us was the parent partridge flapping along the path. It was dragging a wing behind it in the typical ‘broken wing’ appearance to lure us away from its young. I’d heard of this ruse before but that was the first time I’d seen it in real life. The one other bird I’ve seen doing a ‘luring’ or ‘distracting’ flight is the skylark. Others give a warning, or try to distract by singing/chirping loudly. But that partridge was the first broken wing distraction I’d seen. Unless of course it really did have a broken wing? Unlikely.

Having mentioned fields, I think it’s fascinating watching how the appearance of the local countryside changes through the year with the farming calendar. Around Necton it’s been possible to walk beside fields of golden barley while at the same time being able to look across a sea of white flowers on adjacent potato fields. Looking toward the Bradenham ridge in the distance the patchwork quilt of fields changes colour with ripening crops. And then the whole thing changes with harvesting and then ploughing. The colour is always changing.

Another thing that changes over the year is the bird species that visit the garden. Some stay for a while but others just seem to pass through as they travel from somewhere to somewhere else. For instance, earlier in the spring, we had the annual visit by a Pied Wagtail. One alone is only ever seen at the time but surely there must be more in the area. It (they?) take up residence for a couple of weeks and then leave. Is it the same bird that we see quite often or many birds coming once each?

However, some species are only seen once. For instance, a Grey Wagtail visited the garden a couple of days before writing this. I’ve not noticed one anywhere before let alone in my garden. But there it was. And then it was gone. Seemingly not to return.

Another once only visitor was a Crested (or California) Quail. This was a year or so back. I’d never seen one before. I’d not even seen a quail before, and could only identify it as such by looking in an RSPB book of birds. I thought it was a most exotic looking bird, with this blue cockade on its head. It mixed in quite well with some female pheasants that were in the garden at the time. Sadly, its stay around the garden was quite short. I think other people saw it around the village for a while. I assume it had escaped from somewhere.

While not a bird, another once only visitor was a Hawk Moth. Again, this was something I’d not seen before. I was surprised by the large size of it. Looking it up on Google, I found out that the Hawk Moth does not eat during its short life as a moth. It depends on fat reserves stored in its body from when it was a caterpillar. The major part of its life is spent as a caterpillar. Basically it pupates into a flying creature purely to mate and perpetuate the species. And yet I’ve read that some species of butterfly ‘taste’ through their feet. Although that sounds totally bizarre, they do this so they know that the leaf or plant they are going to lay eggs on will be tasty for the emerging caterpillars. That’s if it gets the chance to lay its eggs. I saw a Red Admiral Butterfly happily flying along, doing what butterflies do, then out of nowhere a Greenfinch (I think) zoomed down and plucked the butterfly out of mid-air.

Yet another once only sight in the garden was to see a pair of white tailed bees mating. It’s obviously something that goes on all the time. But I’d not seen it happen before. While on the subject of bees, we had a nest of bees in the bargeboard at the back of our house. They left us alone and we left them alone. Then one day they’d gone. We didn’t see the going of them. I had expected to see a swarm around the garden when they left.

Another unusual sight was a Wren stuck upside down in a trailing stem of a climbing rose. We have noticed a few wrens in the garden, each one having their own patch to themselves. How this particular wren got stuck upside down, and in fact how long it had been there, is a puzzle. We could see what looked like a brown blob swinging violently from this rose stem. It was only on looking close that we realised what it was. It was quite easy to lift it, and it freed its claw and off it flew.

It was interesting watching the garden birds bringing their first brood of youngsters to be fed. Even starlings came to feed their young. The antics some of the young did to attract the parent was quite amusing. We had our usual resident birds with their young but in my opinion I didn’t see quite as many fledglings being fed this year (so far) as in other years. Whether this is down to an actual drop in numbers or just me not being so observant I don’t know. There was one new parent/fledgling feeding combination that I have not seen before and that was a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. We occasionally see one of these woodpeckers on the feeding station but this is the first time we’ve seen a fledgling being fed.

What I find interesting is how quickly things become the ‘norm’. It was not so long ago that we were excited to see Red Kites flying around Necton. So far as I know, they had been reintroduced to Norfolk after having been driven out of the county many years ago. So it was interesting just a few days before writing this that while I was parked in the car near Necton Post Office I watched a Red Kite gliding low over the roof tops of nearby houses. Now it has become the norm to see them.

Apparently 28th July was World Nature Conservation Day. There are some very good projects taking place around the World and long may they continue. However, as the saying goes ‘Charity Begins At Home’. Maybe if we leave an area of our gardens to go a bit wild, or plant bee and butterfly friendly flowers in our gardens or window boxes perhaps we can do our own bit to help World Nature Conservation.

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