my new
nest box. Off
to tell the wife.

* * * * * * * * * * * *
I’ve been galvanised into action by this blue-tit! In the garden border directly below the site of the nest box there was an azalea which had died. I left it there all last year in the vain hope that is might somehow not really be dead and show signs of new life. It didn’t; so I had to admit it needed to go. Aware that once there was a nest in the box above it might not be a good idea to risk disturbing the birds by gardening underneath it I decided now was a good time to dig it out, before the blue-tits finally took up residence. I have replaced it with an evergreen shrub that had self-set in another part of the garden. I just hope my actions haven’t put off the birds!


Nest Box

nest box
in the garden.
So far no birds

Deep Freeze

Deep freeze.
The birds empty the feeders.
I can’t break the ice on the pond.
Spring retreats, regroups.

Bird Watching

Every year, usually the last weekend in January, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) holds its Big Garden Bird Watch. For those not familiar with this event, participants are asked to watch the birds in their garden (or window box, or local park) for an hour and note down type and numbers of what they see.

There are rules of course. You can’t count flyovers, it has to be birds that land in your chosen space. Also you can only count numbers seen at any one time. If you see, say a thrush then see another half-an-hour later you can’t count it as 2 thrushes because it may be the same one again. You can only count 2 if you see them both at the same time. If you do it for more than one hour-long period you can’t total the birds together, it has to be only those seen in one hour-long period.

Some years I have taken part and sent in my results, some years I have done it but not bothered to send in my results. This year I didn’t do it at all. Why? Because it is depressing. So many garden birds are in decline and doing this bird watch just brings it home. Where are the chaffinches, the greenfinches, the occasional bullfinch, yellow hammer, pied wagtail and more that used to visit my garden? When I was a child we had an abundance of house-sparrows and starlings. Now there are so few, especially starlings (although we do see groups of them in the open farmland while out cycling).

I can possibly account for some of these missing  birds in my garden as we have had to tidy up our boundaries, including pulling down the ivy covered chain-link fencing and dead trees between us and the new building plot partially next door to us in order to re-define the fence-line.

The plot used to be an old unmanned telephone exchange, long surplus to requirements and the ground completely neglected and  overgrown, a haven for birds, insects and small mammals. Now, having been sold and with an ugly monstrosity built on it, quite out of keeping with the neighbourhood, it has been completely dug over and is just bare grass. The finches used to love the old ivy covered fence. Now there is nowhere for them. We will be taking steps to restore the damage but it will take time. Meanwhile we are now very overlooked by yet another new housing development where a motor service station and garage used to be on the main road diagonally opposite our green oasis. This site although mainly concrete used to have trees hedges and bushes around it attracting wildlife, now all grubbed out, gone, and several large houses with next to no gardens being built there.

So I stopped doing the bird watch as I felt slightly guilty at the lack of variety on my list. Stupid really as this is the whole point of the exercise – to assess which species are in decline, why that should be and try to do something about it. I’ve missed it this year but may next year I’ll take part again and send in my findings – perhaps by then I will have some old friends returning; I can always hope.

Morning Frost

When morning frost has gone
and I hear birds sing for Spring
my heart joins the song.

Squirrel Nutkin

(Picture taken through window)


Cheeky Squirrel Nutkin
lifts the lid of the peanut feeder
hung there to feed the birds
and steals the nuts inside.



In every possible shade of red
berries adorn each field-side hedge,
each roadside verge, each garden wall.
For the birds, enough to feed them all.

To a Skylark

trilling song.
Up on high
I spot him hovering.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Out on our tandem last Sunday, cycling through open countryside, I became away of bird song and recognised it as a skylark, also known in our house as ‘the never-wert bird’! I looked around and, up high over my left shoulder, eventually spotted it hovering; something of a rare sighting these days.

The skylark gained the name ‘never-wert bird’ in my childhood, aided and abetted by my father, also a poetry lover, from the poem ‘To a Skylark’ by Percy Bysshe Shelley which, as I’m sure you know, begins with the lines “Hail to thee, blithe Spirit / Bird thou never wert”.

One of my clearest memories of seeing skylarks was from when I was a primary school teacher many years ago. My classroom looked out over a fairly wide expanse of grass between our school and the associated Infant School next door. This stretch of grass was out-of-bounds for playing on and surprisingly skylarks nested there. What a delight it was for me and my class of 7-8 year olds, to see through the classroom windows, their regular comings and goings.

Needless to say ‘To a Skylark’ was my choice of poem for this weeks ’email’ session of our poetry group. We are unable to meet at the moment for obvious reasons, so instead we each email a poem via a group email to one of our members who correlates them into a pdf file for circulation to the whole group, to include those members who ‘don’t do email’. The only requirement is that the poem should preferably be uplifting and that we give reasons for our choice.

Trust Me

Poor ruffled young pigeon,
hen-pecked and hobbling,
not allowed to feed.

Here, I have seed
just for you, don’t rush away.
Trust me, don’t be afraid.


I have nothing to say.
I sit in the garden;
the sun comes and goes
alternately warming and cooling,
while the birds sing
and my mind is silent.

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