Ah, Spring. Well, not quite, but at least the threat of snow has abated and the snowdrops are being joined by the daffodils. Up here in the hills Spring takes a few extra weeks to tickle her green fingers over the earth.
There is nothing I like more at this time of year than a cracking pair of great tits. It’s one thing, that I am not ashamed to proclaim, it gets my mood as erect as a calling stork. Ahhh, lovely. Covered up throughout the dark winter months they are now on full display, all buoyant and plump and shining with health. I saw a mouth watering pair of tits yesterday and couldn’t resist reaching for the binoculars for a good old close up. They were nestled together and gently bobbing like two Bramleys in a cask of duck pond scrumpy. I adjusted the focus on the ‘specs and had a perfect view. Oh what a sight. I have to admit I went a bit weak at the knees. God, how I wished I could get my hands around them so they could sit on my sweat glistening palms and, perhaps, talk to them. In my wildest dreams they talk back. I could look at tits all day and indeed hoped I could stare at this delicious pair for an age, that was until James Johnston strolled into the garden and they flew off over the bird table and beyond.
It’s not just great tits that grace the trees and hedgerows at Llanevan, but blue, coal and long tailed tits. I’ve got a pair of blue tits nesting in the room called the bathroom with no bath. They have found a gap between two stones where the lime plastering has fallen away. Jake and Lafonda - a very amiable couple. First time buyers.
The once dead morning air is now an aviary of conversation. There are over forty species of bird on the farm. Within that tally is Open DeSantos; pigeon and bookmaker. He was missing for five days a few weeks ago until he wobbled over the horizon from the English direction with a bounty bursting carrier bag.
“Where’ve you been?” I asked.
“Oh yeah, the festival. Did alright then?”
“Aye. Wasn’t the punter’s week,” he said dragging his money bag up the farmhouse steps with numerous monarchy portraits pressed to the plastic.
“And I thought pigeons were stupid.”
“We are mate on account of our short memory.”
“At least you’ve made enough to pay me back that fifty quid I lent you.”
“Don’t remember that Tommo,” he grinned and retired to the kitchen to count his haul. Bloody pigeons and all their crap.
Llanevan is bucking the declining bird trend. Intensive, chemical reliant agriculture has seen a drastic decline in many species of bird. Old meadows where the peewit and curlew were so common have been ploughed and re-sown with corn, though not necessarily to the benefit of the corn crake because it’s grub food store is decimated by the gallons of insecticide. Hedgerows have been ripped up to create larger fields for monstrous machinery to manoeuvre over and the bird’s habitat disappears at an alarming rate.
But who needs birds? The countryside would suffer without their industrial pollination and reseeding activities and would be a blander place for their absence. Their industrial innocence is a therapeutic antidote to the hustle and bustle of life. At Llanevan the hedges are relayed creating a solid safe haven for the little chirpers to nest and socialize in, hedge waste is tumped in piles to create a rich habitat for more home making and dead trees are left to stand for the woodpeckers to create holes for some high rise living. The grasses are cut in late August allowing the birds to eat their fill from the wild seed.
Last summer I spotted the first Kingfisher to visit the farm brook in ten years. A shock of electric blue and tangerine shot along the brook edge and the Merlin of the water paused on a branch with a tiny brown trout in its beak.
“How do?” I cried out, looking up from my copy of Bunty.
He swallowed the fish and flew over. “Pleased to meet you. Love your brook.”
“Ta. Haven’t seen your kind on these waters for a decade.”
“Na, we’ve taken quite a battering of late what with all the river bank clearing and waning fish stocks. But we’re on the way back. You don’t mind if I move in do you? Looks ever so moist around here.”
“My trout are your trout.”
“You are a gent. When I’ve settled in I’ll buy you a drink,” the little fisherman offered.
“That’s funny, because there’s a beer named after you.”
And so when Geoff and I sit at the bar of the Suspicious Finger I will raise a Kingfisher to the health of the Llanevan birds and hope that in the next few weeks I can look up from the shower to see Jake and Lafonda feeding their new brood. Might even coax them down for a bird bath.
The British birds have been a persecuted species of late, but we can all do our bit to maintain their place in our gardens and our hearts.
Open DeSantos isn’t so optimistic. He’s offering 7 - 2 that we will lose at least fifteen breeds by 2050. Let’s stifle the decline. The solution may well begin and end with agricultural reform, but in the middle we can all make an effort to get our nuts out and tempt a couple of cracking tits (and other birds) over to have a nibble. Oh, I love Spring. Baby animals and tits everywhere. Blimey, don’t even get me started on a cute little ass.