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Steve's Nature Notes - December '23

On November the 6th we saw our first Fieldfares, flying above our cottage, and a few days later we were seeing huge flocks of them devouring the hawthorn berries and blackberries. They look to be getting ready for the hard winter that I’ve predicted. Chris Fenemore has told me that he’s ordered extra fodder for his animals, all because I’d said it was going to be a hard winter, so I hope I’m right! If not, he’ll be giving me a hard time all next year.

By the way, the collective name for a group of Fieldfares is a consolation. I love these group names. The Rooks in the little copse near us, on the north corner of The Green, have been really vocal in the evenings, gathering in their group of a hundred or more, ‘shouting’ and calling before going to roost. The group name for Rooks is a congregation or a parliament, although my favourite and oldest is “a story-telling”. I love the Rooks. They’re very sociable birds, living in family groups and eating and sleeping together. I know people who shoot them, calling them Crows, which is really wrong. Crows are true predators, whereas Rooks eat worms, bugs and leather-jackets, and certainly do more good than harm.

I’ve seen three Hedgehogs in the last few weeks. They are very busy trying to put on enough fat to get them through the winter months.

A friend of mine who lives at Over Worton went one better, and had the pleasure of hearing a Bittern one Saturday evening at the end of November. They make a wonderful booming sound, just like a fog horn. I’ve never heard it myself, but I did see one by a ditch in our flood meadows some 30 years ago. If alerted they stand dead upright, with their striped necks out-stretched, and pretend to be a reed. They’re amazing birds, and really a bit rare around here.

The nights are well drawn-in now and it’s been getting later to become light in the mornings. I must admit, I like the dark nights – not having to do jobs outside, and getting the log burner blazing in our living room. By the time you read the next article we will have had Christmas. Blimey, it flies by, doesn’t it!

Cheers for now, Stephen & Wendy

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