Our Patch: Let It Snow

By on Tuesday, February 11, 2014

our_patch_sj_jarmanThere are some very excited little people in our house.

The forecast keeps threatening snow, and every morning before we can breakfast, the curtains have to be opened to see if there are blankets of white powder over the streets… so far there has been bitter, bitter disappointment.

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I have, however, been seeing some signs of an impending change in the weather.

We have been visited by a Grey Wagtail – something we only usually see by running water or when there is heavy snow on the ground.

Most of us are probably more familiar with the more common Pied Wagtail, often seen in car parks and school playgrounds. These are fairly ‘tame’ birds, and their very fast run and bobbing motion (hence their name) makes them easily identifiable.

grey_wagtail_birdThe Grey Wagtail (as I have mentioned in previous columns) is not only grey but also yellow – it is usually insectivorous, but as with all of nature, there are few creatures who specialise themselves out of existence, and this one not only was eating our meal worms, but started eating some seeds and fat balls too.

Also mooching around the garden has been another visitor we rarely see, much to the chagrin of the aforementioned excited people: A squirrel. Alas, my camera battery was not charged when the squirrel came to see us, so I have cheated, using pictures I recently took in SeftonPark.

Many garden bird lovers are not keen on grey squirrels; they steal eggs and baby birds and break into seed and nut feeders, eating and caching all of the food which was put out for many creatures to share.

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They are also carriers of squirrel Pox, which, although they are resistant to it, they can pass on to red squirrels, decimating their populations and causing long and unpleasant deaths for their smaller native cousins.

I’m afraid they are rather a favourite in our house, however – the children are delighted when one appears in the garden, and they are thrilled as a fluffy tail bounds up a tree or along a fence; their acrobatic antics are adorable. The children feel that they never stay long enough, and it is so unpredictable as to when they might return.

Although it seems that the snow and frost may soon be upon us, there are lots of hints of spring – daffodils, snowdrops and crocus shoots are breaking the earth, hinting at the vibrant spectacle they will shortly have to share with us.

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There are buds appearing on many trees now, and magpies and wood pigeons are busily nest -building and romancing – fairly apt with St Valentine’s Day coming at the end of the week.

Even some of the smaller birds are starting to woo one another as the sounds of spring start to fill warmer parts of the day.

This week I have seen but not heard skylarks. I cannot wait to hear their cheery song once more, not because I dislike the winter (I truly don’t), but because it is impossible not to be happy – even if only fleetingly when their song touches you.

In the summer last year we had wood mice in the garden. They were bold and flitted around in the late afternoon/early evening, and we haven’t seen them since, just noticed their nibblings on the edges of fungi around the pond.

When I recently went into the shed to retrieve some material to make costumes for yet another dress-up day in school, I found that my scrap bag had been raided and all the pieces had been chewed into a warm ball of fluff perfect for making nests.

It seems that the shed had been their home, and when disturbed they had rapidly moved their den outside, taking my material with them. We haven’t as yet discovered their new home, but perhaps a touch of snow will bring them out into the open again so we can find it!

Pied Wagtail image: Keven Law
(licensed under Creative Commons)

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SJ, also known as Sarah and Sarah-Jane, held her dream job as a breastfeeding peer support worker until becoming a full-time mum of three. She still volunteers at Whiston Hospital.

In her spare time, SJ loves to read, and play cello with the Knowsley Youth Orchestra. She confesses to being a secret singer ever since hubby Trev bought her SingStar.

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