Countryside File - April 2021 below:
Here’s the latest interesting Countryside File update from Jane Johnson for the current Fishlake, Sykehouse and Kirk Bramwith, with Fenwick and Moss Parish on-line News.
4th & 5th April
Easter Sunday and Monday and although the sun is shining beautifully there are bitter arctic winds from the North East. A huge red kite gracefully rides the wind, twisting his forked tail round as a rudder as he glides low over the house. Perhaps he’ll become a regular visitor as he was here last week too. There’s also a threat of frost overnight so, late in the evening we decide we must try to protect the newly emerged potato shoots in the veg garden. We spend an hour battling the wind, struggling to put thin, floaty garden fleece over the potatoes without treading on any! Not for the faint hearted!
Wild weather again. There’s a blue sky, with bitter arctic winds and every kind of clouds, including what look like snow clouds. We still have faith in fair April weather, so decide to take Lily for a walk round the pond. All seems well in the shelter of the wood – yellow celandine and pretty white stitchwort are flowering, and the bluebell leaves are lush and green. At the furthest distance from home we look back and see a jet black sky with sweeping ‘curtains’ of precipitation coming our way! We dash for shelter behind a polytunnel just in time as a snow storm passes through! So much for Spring weather!
A message from David in Sykehouse - “Saw my first Swallow this morning down at Eskholme, they are a bit later this year (three days later in fact). Think it must be the spell of northerly winds we've had which has slowed them down a bit. Hope it warms up in the next few days so they've a few bugs to feed up on”
I've yet to see a swallow myself in Moss, but our friends at the farm up the road had one that returned to their stables on Sat 3rd, but nothing else has come to join it yet. There really don’t seem to be any insects around at the moment in the cold weather, and so all this lovely blackthorn in the hedgerows and plum blossom may not get pollinated.
Thankfully the arctic winds have subsided, giving way to a run of hot sunny days that would do June justice. Unfortunately every night they’re accompanied by heavy, damaging frosts – not what gardeners want to see! The potatoes remain covered, but now we’re putting sheets over the broad beans each night, and everything is so dry again – no sign of April showers. Birds are very busy in the garden – green finches, goldfinches, chaffinches, great and blue tits and robins on the feeders, with blackbirds and dunnocks cleaning up the bits underneath.
There seem to be chiff-chaffs in every tree, loudly calling their name! They’re such tiny birds – the amount of energy they must expend continuously calling all day is amazing. When do they get time to eat?! We’re regularly getting a cock pheasant in the paddock, or hear him ‘cockling’ behind the hedge. Sometimes in the evening he’s wandering on the bottom lawn and Lily sends him up to roost with a great commotion. Today he’s investigating the bird feeders outside the patio door, trying to fly up to reach them. He seems to know what to do and is quite confident, so I assume he’s learned this behaviour in someone else’s garden. Sitting on the gate, then flying off a bit awkwardly is a fully fledged young blackbird, still with a trace of yellow gape at his beak. Even though it’s been so cold, it’s good to see that blackbird broods are still being raised successfully.
Out late afternoon with Lily; again it’s sunny but cold and I finally see my first swallow. It’s totally alone, hunting low over the wheat field. Back in 2019 Alan Bulmer in Sykehouse reported his first swallow on 19th March, but he always had a keen eye for such things. April is usually such a busy month in nature, but a lot of things seem scarce. It’s weeks since I heard a curlew – they seem to have gone elsewhere, and I’ve not seen much evidence of barn owls, although there are some large fresh pellets under a tree where there’s an old barn owl box. Going through the wood, the bluebells are just beginning to open, but are far from the dense carpet of blue I reported a week earlier in 2020. There are a few cowslips on the bank though.
A report from David in Sykehouse: ”Good morning Jane. Well, the strange weather continues, it's not helpful for my first year vegetable gardening. The diary I keep is getting a bit monotonous, every day is along the lines of ' frosty start then dry and sunny later' we could really do with some rain. One farmer in the village is already irrigating his fields. We have one or two Swallows and House Martins about but none seem to be staying yet. Last evening I was watering the garden when I heard the Cuckoo, it was calling for a few minutes over in the direction of Sykehouse Lock. We took a few combs of honey from the hive a week ago. It is my first home produced and we only took three jars worth but it is delicious and the 'girls' are busy all day, out foraging to make some more. At least it doesn't look like we've had a frost this morning”.
Another cold night and sunny day. According to the BBC, this April has been the coldest since the 1980’s and we’ve only had 10% of our normal rainfall. At least today there are a few more butterflies about, especially orange-tipped ones, and the bees have found the sugary flowers of sycamore as they begin to open. Soon it will be buzzing like a hive! A male blackcap has also found them. He alternates between singing his beautiful warbler’s song and hanging upside down eating the blossom. Surely we’ll get rid of the frosts soon to give us gardeners a break!
© Jane Mawson 2021
Please e-mail me if you see anything interesting, and pass on the word to others who’re missing the Parish Magazine that I could e-mail them the Countryside File.
Jane Mawson: [email protected]