Well April has arrived. Don’t you just love this time of year? Easter, spring, daffodils, butterflies, honeybees, birdsong, snowmen.
Alright, where I am there is no longer snow on the ground, but it is just as cold. I think we are the April fools, expecting our seasons to adhere to the old custom of things when our world now seems turned on its head. This time last year we had temperatures up in the 70’s. Expectations of a Summer heatwave rose with the mercury, only to be washed away in the wettest Summer since records began, the second wettest year on record, and now the coldest Easter on record. All after fears of a drought.
I’m dreaming, of a white Easter.
I took the dog just around the block yesterday morning-it was freezing after all. He is no husky and I am no Scott. With a cold wind sweeping down from the Pennines, and chasing us westward, I tracked the usual route through Sparrow Enclave. Forget visions of a wooded conservation area or sweeping valley. Sparrow Enclave is how I think of two short rows of houses, facing each other, named Hesketh Walk. With the help of a long garden turned wild (I think possibly by design by either a sympathetic wildlife lover or reluctant gardener) this area appears to be a last bastion for the humble sparrow in our community. Every morning when my four legged friend and I , goosebumps and all, arrive here on our somnambulistic saunter, they can be heard singing from the guttering of the houses in whose cavities they nest. I usually see several of them flitting among the trees and hedgerows that line the path we take.
Joining in this morning’s avian love fest was a dumpy Wren-the Druid’s bird. Another day, last week , I was nearly hit by a low flying female Sparrowhawk- obviously learned by word of beak that there is a great new takeaway in town. Why do the Winterwatch team set up camp annually in the Highlands when all the action they crave can be found on this small concrete walk? Just putting your wheelie bin out is like going on a Bill Oddie odyssey. Catchy.
It’s the sparrows that catch the eye, just because of their presence.
I don’t feed the birds all year around, just in the Winter when it is life-or-death time. At that time of year the birds are better fed than the kids, with marginally worse toilet habits. I get blackbirds, magpies, robins, but the two species that used to be the most prevalent to my garden are now conspicuous by their absence. The RSPB say the number of sparrows in the UK have dropped by 71% between 1977 and 2008. Starlings have fared little better. And have further decreased in the years since.
But for whatever reason, Hesketh Walk is the place where the sparrow is, if not flourishing, hanging on. The Portuguese Neanderthals of the bird world. Having located in my dog-lead meanderings Sparrow Enclave, hopefully somewhere around these parts I will stumble across Starling Alamo.
I will keep an eye out tomorrow. In the meantime I will place my long johns next to my sunglasses next to my waterproofs next to my distress flare. It won’t be until I open the blinds that I will know what season we are in for for that day. Or at least for the morning.