Country Diary: A bit of grated cheese can save wrens’ lives

Hard winters can be murderous for little wrens.
Hard winters can be murderous for little wrens.

Having recently filled a couple of containers with peanuts and fat balls at Seamer Road mere site, we wondered how they were faring. Would local birds have discovered their extra food supply? We’re pleased to say they had, and the chief visitors were a variety of tits and a chaffinch. Good news will spread!

Travelling through Brompton on a glorious winter’s day of bright sunshine, the village looked radiant. What would our countryside be without the lively, noisy rooks? A large flock of rooks were observed feeding in a field, seeking their favourite food of worms, or leatherjackets no doubt. British rooks are residents, but their numbers are boosted by continental birds in winter.

What we haven’t seen for some considerable time are lapwings. Only one flock was recorded during 2017 and they used to be such a familiar sight 50 years ago. Though apparently quite common in some areas, in others they’ve almost disappeared. Lapwings are sadly among those birds which have suffered as a result of the dramatic changes in British agriculture.

Murmurations of starlings are regularly seen at dusk, their swirling flocks high above Foreshore Road, Scarborough, between the Futurist and the Town Hall, before they go to roost.

Visiting Michael’s brother John at West Heslerton, we went up the country lane as signed to West Lutton and Driffield, to view once again the spurge laurel. This year it took a little while to discover half a dozen or so small bushes at the top of the grassed embankment. Unfortunately the grass-cutter had lopped them, so there’ll be no flowers this season.

John has a little area of woodland adjoining his cottage. It was encouraging to learn that within the wood was a small clump of snowdrops with buds already revealing white – many are now in bloom. The aconites seemed later this year, with just a solitary flower opening, but it’s early days yet.

Michael and John have similar interests in both gardening and woodwork. It was interesting to see John’s newly-designed bird feeder, windmills, troughs and sleigh. His cottage garden is always beautifully maintained, with roses nicely pruned, and many bulbs emerging from containers. Now he’s contemplating how to over-winter his array of geraniums. Having tried several of the usual methods, many inevitably don’t survive. There are so many problems. This year, he’ll dig a trench, and heel the plants in minus their foliage. Then his idea is to cover them with a thick layer of dried leaves to keep out the frost. Perhaps you have ideas how to over-winter geraniums, please?

We’ve just spotted our wren seeking insects or spiders in crevices of dry stone-walling. Hard winters are murderous for them. We must sprinkle grated cheese nearby, or rub a little onto stones. This simple act can save wrens’ lives.