An absence of birds and rain

It has been a slow and boring March for us here, with painting, painting – and it seemed – yet more painting …We had a new porch built outside our front door last December.  It’s on the colder, north side of the building, so gives us extra protection with a double entrance as well as accommodating all our muddy, messy outdoor wear.All sorts of things had to be done to make it a useful part of the building …And it is finally just about there …But the painting – the oh, so very boring painting – dragged on and on.  Little bits all over the house and garden also appeared in need of a paint in the fresh clean light of spring days …We are now making up for lost time, and outside as much as possible, catching up on the garden.Stephen’s potting up of seeds and young plants includes making these nifty little newspaper pots – so ingenious!Sometimes he has a not-so-helpful helper with him …The salad greens in the greenhouse are feeding us comfortably …But it looks like we will have a while to wait for any crops from our raised beds.  The problem isn’t just the very cold nights we are still getting (although our days are blessed with sun a plenty).  No, it’s the absence of rain …Our water butts are empty.  We have light rain showers occasionally, but they are so very light as to make little or no difference.  I can’t remember when we last had a decent downpour.  The water butts remain almost empty. So most reluctantly, we have got out the hose …It’s easy for us – but not so easy for the local farmers.  At the beginning of April, there were still ponds on the local fields.  We watched these with great interest as they provide home and sustenance to the local gulls.This is what they look like now … parched …Walking around the local farms, there is evidence aplenty of parched fields.  This is an interesting spot because it is at the bottom of fields that run down to the sea on the right.  In other years – in wetter winters – there has not been the same marked run off as we are seeing this year. You can’t really tell from these pictures, but this winter wheat crop has barely grown at all.It’s easy for us to water our slow-growing raspberries plants, but quite a different matter for a farmer with huge grain fields …Elsewhere, the monopoly of bright yellow early spring flowers is over.  Those daffodil heads are in the compost heap, contributions to another year …There are flash-coloured tulips about now and lots of forget-me-nots … oh dear, I see something else that needs a fresh coat of paint! The forget-me-nots really come into their own on the other side of our garden fence … this year they are tiny plants … usually double the height …I always think the very best thing about gardening is the surprises, the things you have forgotten you planted.  These entirely white narcissi are exactly such a case in point.  I have absolutely no recollection of planting them, but I think they are just exquisite, fragile and elegant … Ghost flowers …Another delight this year is the japonica flowering for the first time.  Usually in the autumn I collect japonica fruit from my friend in Devon to make quince jelly.  Perhaps this year, I’ll have a couple of my own fruit to add to this year’s jelly …There are disappointments too.  The rosemary bush has died – and just look at the scorch marks from salty easterly blasts on the snapdragon plant in the foreground …The other big disappointment for us is the absence of birds. It’s true that there are pigeons … hours of entertainment for Eggy (hunched in the foreground) …But there have been no ordinary birds like sparrows and blackbirds for weeks. In February, Ilsa brought a song thrush in to Stephen.  He was able to rescue it, and as it seemed fine, we hoped it would survive. However, we later found it dead in the field.  RIP beautiful bird.So now the cats wear collars …They don’t seem to be very perturbed by the collars, and are out and about enjoying themselves as usual …But have they frightened the birds away for good? We take heart from a new young blackbird who has been seen around, and a sparrow was sighted on the bird feeders today.

There are still larks. On my knees, as I weeded the flowerbeds, with the sea on the horizon, the sun on my back, my head was full of the sound of the song of the larks – singing their hearts out in this glorious place. Rain and birds …. please come back!


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Lost - and found.

10 thoughts on “An absence of birds and rain”

  1. It’s been dry here too in North Yorkshire, except for Easter when we had a bit of rain. We found a brambling in the garden which was unusual but couldn’t get near it and a couple of days later found it dead by the compost bins. Fortunatly we have lots of other birds in the garden. It’s certainly been an odd Spring. I love your new porch, bet its so useful.


    1. Yes, we love the porch too, thank you 🙂 It doesn’t just keep us warmer, but keeps so much mud out of the house!! Interesting to hear that we are all experiencing this strange dry spring.


  2. That’s the trouble with painting – you get one bit looking good and then everything else looks in need of a coat too. We’re desperate for rain – since June last year we’ve only had one month of average rainfall and all the others have been way under. Consequently, the crops are beginning to suffer and we’ve been out with hoses trying to keep the newly planted Christmas trees alive. Thankfully, we have an abundance of skylarks singing above us, which makes any day seem better.


    1. Quite so with the painting! Must be very hard for your farm with the shortage of rain – glad you can at least water your newly-planted Christmas trees. Aren’t the sky-larks uplifting!


  3. Skylarks….as we dropped our car off at Heathrow on our last visit to England the beautiful song of the skylark up and down above the huge expanse of runways just sang to my heart….. How glorious to be gardening with just such a song to accompany you. I am sure all the other birds are just a small distance away and watching you as you ruffle up the soil……


    1. I am just amazed that you heard skylarks at Heathrow with all that traffic and aircraft noise – how brilliant! I think it is the most uplifting bird song in the world – and one of the things strangest about autumn is that they stop singing. But for now, I’m enjoying them – and I hope they sing for you when you visit the UK soon! Do you not have skylarks in Australia?


      1. No skylarks in Western Australia although I see in the bird book that they live over in the eastern states. Homesick pioneers probably brought them with them when they first arrived…like horses, camels, pigs, foxes, rabbits, cats….but skylarks are so beautiful very lovely. When we visited the Western Front the air above the barley fields was fairly ringing with their song…..


        1. Goodness, just imagine transporting larks all that way! That said, my dad, when migrating to the UK in the 1930s, was charged with looking after two kookaburras which they brought for my home-sick Australian great-uncle who worked as a doctor in Sidcup … Don’t think export/import regs would allow that nowadays!


  4. Your porch looks great kd…so nice and bright. We built a porch about the same size at our back door and use it year round. There’s a small table and two chairs, and it’s just big enough for the two of us to enjoy lunch and dinner there, overlooking our backyard. We’re especially enjoying it now as there of lots of birds at the feeders…bluejays, sparrows, goldfinch, nuthatch, juncos…and what I think is a common redpoll…a new visitor. We have a nice view…but your views are staggering…the large expanse of countryside and ocean at your doorstep!


    1. Thanks, Karen, we love our porch! Sounds like you have a great porch too – and what a pleasure to sit and watch all those birds. I am just a wee bit envious …. I should be content with the view and stop complaining!


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