Someone has stolen all the robins and thrushes! It occurred to me the other day that I no longer here the song thrush in the morning on my way to work. Then I thought a bit more and realised there were no robins either. Then one morning I woke up earlier than usual and heard the thrush (even through the double glazing – note to self, get double glazing changed). The song thrush sings just before it gets light, unfortunately I am too lazy to get up at that time once we get past February and so I miss his solo performance.
Now the tune has changed and I am treated to the calls of chaffinches, blue tits and great tits. It won’t be long before the blackcaps and chiffchaffs are adding to the chorus line. I know that chiffchaffs have been heard in the area, and I was lucky enough to have a blackcap in the garden on last Saturday (strangely enough the day after I had 5 siskins, traditionally winter visitors, on the seed feeder). I managed to catch the grumpy little chap on camera, unfortunately, though, not the siskins.
One sound of Spring that I am still missing is the sound of the frogs in the pond. Alas, I fear there will be no frogspawn this year.
Is there a sound that you particularly associate with the coming of Spring?
They help protect against flooding, clean the waterways, look cute and keep those pesky trees under control and they may be moving to your neighbourhood (if you live near a river, which I don’t). Yes, following the decision to reintroduce beavers in Scotland later this year Natural England has conducted a study that has found that a reintroduction to England could be beneficial (more on the BBC website).
The benefits of the reintroduction include reduced flooding, tourism and cleaner waterways. I may be a bit blinkered about this, but to me these seem like pretty big advantages, with not too many disadvantages. It was a topic discussed on BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today program and I was a little surprised by the comments against the idea. Included in the arguments are the problems now encountered with Grey Squirrels and Mink. The difference is that Beavers were native to the UK and we hunted them to extinction.
I know that the UK is a different place to that of 500 years ago, but so is the rest of Europe where Beaver reintroduction has been successful. We’ll just have to reintroduce wolves or lynx at some point to keep the numbers down!
I saw my first butterfly of the year yesterday. It was a Brimstone, often one of the first to be out flying, in fact they were recorded a couple of months ago in Oxfordshire. He gladdened my heart (he was definitely a he, too bright a yellow to be female). I had popped into the back garden to enjoy the sunshine, and it appears he had the same thought. Unfortunately I didn’t get a photograph.
On my way home today, I saw my first blossom trees flowering. I am not sure what they are, but they are cherry related. There was a bee on this flower shortly before I took this picture, but, as is often the case, he flew away before I could press the button.
Also of note are the daffodils flowering on various roundabouts, roadsides and gardens, as well as the early flowering tulips that open up to greet the sun in our front garden. OK, they are a bit gaudy, but I think you can get away with it at tis time of the year.
I have written before about how frustrating and confusing it can be trying to reduce food miles. It is not that things are not labelled well, I find Waitrose always have the country of origin stated in an obvious position. It relates more to the question of what is in season, and is it better to buy British food which may have been grown in a heated greenhouse (which is not always obvious) or to buy imports from Spain where the weather is better for growing things such as peppers?
So, in order to combat this dilemma, we try to buy what is in season. There are some places I can go to get help – I have Sarah Raven’s Garden Cookbook, and Monty Don’s Fork to Fork (and there are some things I try to grow myself so I have an idea what is in season for part of the year). Other things are just obvious – if it is not June or July then the chances are the strawberries are not free range, ripened naturally in a British field, but are imported or grown under glass.
This year we have discovered two new (to us) vegetables. The first was Savoy Cabbage. I know this is not knew to most people, but James has had a deep mistrust of anything resembling cooked cabbage for as long as I have known him, and I had a childhood where cabbage tended to be spring cabbage and by the time it was boiled to death then it resembled seaweed. Not that I minded, I did not have well developed taste buds at that time. Anyway, following advice from James’s mum we bought our first cabbage and have become firm advocates of the joy of bubble & squeak. Ours usually involves bacon or sausage if there are any left over (although it is just as nice as a vegetarian meal) with the green part of a leek and some boiled potatoes mashed in. Lovely!
The second is a more recent discovery and is about to go out of season I think. This is celeriac. As you would expect it does taste like celery, but is of a very different texture and much milder. We have used it in risottos, ribollita and casserole so far, as well as mashing it with potatoes. It tends to lift the risotto and the mashed potato, making them lighter.
Our next aim is to venture into the world of beetroot – any recipe suggestions welcomed.
I was listening to a BBC Wildlife podcast the other day, and one of the guests was asked to talk about good news nature stories, to make up for all of the doom and gloom climate change news that surrounds us every day. I think they had a very good point. This is not to say that the doom and gloom may not have some basis in fact, but not everything is bad news.
One of the news stories that I am beginning to take for granted now is the return of the Buzzard. The use of DDT and illegal killing by farmers made the buzzard a rarity outside of Wales. In the last 5 or 10 years, they have become much more commonplace to the point where I expect to see one nearly every time I drive anywhere outside Daventry (and I have seen them above the fields surrounding Daventry as well, it is just they are a more of an open countryside kind of a bird). In fact I saw two yesterday perched in a tree minding their own business.
Another large predator which is being helped in its spread back across the British Isles is the Red Kite. These are magnificent birds, and, until recently I had only ever seen one in mid Wales. However, they are becoming a little more widespread, especially along the M4 corridor. Yesterday, in one of my rare journeys that took me more than 20 miles from home (I was on business and it was a pointless trip, as is so often the case) I saw a large bird ahead with a long tail. I hoped and slowed down a little, and, yes it was a red kite, just over the border in Oxfordshire. It made my trip suddenly more worthwhile and less frustrating!