NATURE is a wonderful thing. Even living in a town or village, examples of Mother Nature’s bountiful blessings are all around us.
We are lucky to be living in Huddersfield which is surrounded by such wonderful countryside.
Images spring to mind: the flowering of the first daffodils in spring signalling that the earth is awakening from her winter slumber, fields of ripe corn swaying in the breeze on a warm summer’s day in golden sunshine, frost patterns on the window and unspoilt panoramas of virgin white fields after a fresh snowfall under piercingly blue skies.
At this time of year our garden is full of multicoloured leaves and the bushes are covered with intricate silver webs woven by industrious grey spiders who are their most active in autumn.
Living here on the edge of the countryside, nature sometimes arrives on our doorstep. We get an occasional glimpse of a fox, although our neighbours would wish that we didn’t. The last one killed all their chickens. Molehills abound, but we have yet to see any of the elusive culprits. And I did once see a shrew in the lane. Admittedly, it was dead, but it still counts.
We like putting fat balls, nuts and bread out in the garden to attract the birds, who have a hard time of it up here, what with the gale force winds and lack of tree cover.
Max, our schnauzer, and I spend many happy hours watching the antics of the chirpy sparrows and bouncy blackbirds through our patio window. Although I know that Max’s intentions are not entirely altruistic. If one of our passerine friends hops too close to the French windows, Max goes ballistic. He launches himself at the glass, barking hysterically and scrabbling at the glass.
When I let him out, he races round the garden after the birds, who fly lazily away. I’m not sure it isn’t just a clever ploy on his part as, left to his own devices, he hoovers up all the bread.
Happy times, or at least they used to be. Our marvelling at the joys of nature has been somewhat soured since we started chatting to Jeremy, a new dog walker who moved into the village this summer.
In just three months, Jeremy has seen 10 times more birds than I have since we moved here 13 years ago. In one day alone this week he saw an unbelievable 43 different types of birds. He knows this because he keeps a list.
Max and I nod politely as he regales us with the seemingly endless roll call of species we have missed.
Never mind sparrows and blackbirds, he’s seen meadow pipits, mistle and song thrushes, goldfinches, countless warblers, great tits, pied wagtails, starlings, swallows, swifts, ravens, goldfinches, herons, cormorants and little grebes to name but a few.
Apparently he has seen two buzzards, a sparrowhawk, a hobby hawk and “loads of kestrels” in the field opposite our house. I’ve never even seen one.
Recently he spotted a family of little owls at Pole Moor, the parents and three babies. He got so close that one of the fledgling’s fluffy face and giant eyes filled his scope and was staring right back at him.
And apparently that flock of birds that Max and I noticed on the tree in the lane recently weren’t skinny sparrows after all. No, they were linnets.
As if this wasn’t hard enough to swallow, the local wildlife seems to be flinging itself at Bolster Moor’s answer to Doctor Doolittle. This week a tiny goldcrest, Europe’s smallest bird, smashed into his lounge window (see photo). Jeremy rescued the dazed adventurer and released it safely shortly afterwards.
Even his cats excel at discovering wildlife. The two of them have brought 25 mice into his house since he moved here. Twenty were already dead, four lucky survivors were returned to the countryside and one, I am happy to report, shot upstairs and is apparently running round his bedroom.
After the last walk with Jeremy, Max and I returned home disheartened with our tail between our legs. But schnauzers don’t let things get them down so easily, so we soon came up with a plan.
Firstly, I have been out and bought a book on British birds and secondly, we are changing our dog walking route. That’ll show him!
Meanwhile we have retreated back into our own little world and continue to enjoy looking into the garden and watching the blackbirds and sparrows ….or was that last one a linnet…?