Sparrows Don’t Like Snow….

It was 6 am, dark. I leapt out of bed and looked through the window, no snow! I go back to a warm bed disappointed like a child expecting a day off school but not getting it. I could have stamped my feet but its difficult when you’re in bed and it causes a serious draft! They promised snow, not just snow, but heavy snow!! I checked my phone and find that snow is not forecast until 8.00am. I obviously hadn’t read the forecast very carefully yesterday!   I laughed to myself, how boring things would be, if weather forecasts were that accurate. What would we British have to talk about? I set an alarm clock in my head for 8.00am and drifted back to sleep.

the garden at dawn

I am awake now it 8.05 am. I suddenly remember why my brain alarm clock has woken me up. I leap from bed and look through the window, it’s snowing. I make a mental note to apologise to the met office regarding my early morning cursing of their inaccurate predictions. I’m happy, I like snow. Armed with binoculars, camera and recorder and stout walking boots, thick socks, I dash from House.

I want to know what the village looks like before the virgin snow is spoiled by foot, paw and tyre. I also want to know, what do sparrows think of this snow? The snow is now falling in large 50 pence flakes and melting into the fibres of my woolly hat. My task is to wander the village and listen, take photographs and check out anything that might be of interest.

I say listen because listening is one of the much underrated skills of the naturalist. I walk to the roost site of the Old School Sparrow Clan. I pass the three foot hedge (Have I told you about this? later later!) on route from the back door. The hedge is empty, well actually only empty of sparrows. A male blackbird sits quietly on top and a robin rests inside. They too,  visit the 3 foot hedge, after all, its not the sole property of the sparrows

 I hear that satisfying crunch of fresh snow under walking boot. It’s like the first bite into a crunchie. The sparrows are at home, still roosting, but they a little subdued. They are not full of their usual muddled joyous twittering.

So I am now walking the village street. The matched tracks, small paw and big foot, cross my path here and there. Dog walkers round here are keen! Having checked a hedge or two for activity I make my way to the roost site of the Bayley Hills (that is Bayley not Beverly!) clan. They too are not committed to their early morning choral service but sit resigned in their mixed hedge and small tree roost.

The Blind Corner Clan is relatively quiet. I walk on. The Village Hall Clan, despite access to a wonderful village hall conservation area, are not in the best of Christmas spirits either.  So that leaves the Mac Clan (aptly named because my friend Mac lives nearby. Both he and his good lady wife love the birds in their garden). This particular sparrow roost is the noisiest of them all, but given the relative performances of sparrows at roost this morning, that is not saying much! So it seems,  that from this morning’s investigations, Sparrows, unlike me,  just don’t like snow!

The Sparrow sings loudest when the church bells ring?

It’s nearly 10 am now and I am watching the news and eating some fresh bread rolls. The bread bit is irrelevant I know, but we love to make bread in our house and have done so for the last 37 years. Now the funny thing is, the three foot hedge is directly behind the TV and clearly visible through the window . So you see this is how it all began. We sit down to eat breakfast, have coffee or lunch and next minute you find yourself watching Channel Sparrow and not the TV 😄and to be frank (Jon normally) sometimes it’s a lot more interesting. I don’t want you to think this is all we do, watch daytime TV, because nothing is further from the truth. We may do this a little bit more often on wet days in winter months and that’s all, I promise!

The cock House Sparrow is back in the 3 foot hedge. It’s miserable, the weather is miserable and he is miserable, sitting in the middle, about a foot down from the top. He is rather half heartedly chirruping, not preening, not tail flicking, not spinning his head from side to side or tilting it up or down to check for possible predators or interested hen sparrows, just pathetic uninterested chirruping.

It is now 10 am. The church clock strikes 10 bells for the hour.  It seems like this is all the Sparrow needs to get seriously on the job, at last, a little encouragement. He launches into the full show, moves up to the top of hedge, checks to make sure there are no hawks about and lets us have it all at full throttle, full volume, nothing held back!

Now you might say that there was something else that triggered this sudden burst of enthusiasm. Perhaps a hen sparrow was sat out of my sight on the corner of the roof? Perhaps a neighbouring cock sparrow had just burst into competitive song in the hedge next door. But for me, the sparrow sings loudest when the church bells ring?

Dawn and its pouring with rain again!!

Its not long after sunrise and the House Sparrows are still in there roost in the hedge up the road. But soon the birds will be back in the garden. The wintering Blackcaps are visiting the fat feeders. I would like to think that’s because I have gone to the trouble of making some extra special ‘home grown’ fat slabs for them. This is a speciality of the house, well actually the garden! But realIy we all know that they back because the weather has been wet and cold. By 10am there are three House Sparrows in the three foot hedge, two males and a female. Typically noisy, one of the males sits and chirrups, just reminding everybody that this is his patch and its in my patch!

The female (hen) found a feather, colour, white. This is very fortunate because I have been telling people who are engaged in our House Sparrow project, that sparrows love white feathers. I sneak to the fireplace and lean out slowly, just far enough to poke my camera round the brickwork and point it optimistically at the Sparrow with feather. The postman walking past thinks I have lost the plot! Several shots later I realise I have nothing to share with my followers but I am beginning to understand why sparrows like Hawthorn hedges, even 3 foot of them. Why? Well because House Sparrows are practically Hawthorn twig colour and very well camouflaged when sitting amongst their branches.

The female drops it and the male picks it up, considers it for a minute or two, twirls it round in his beak as if not sure which way it should be held to best effect. Then the hen takes it back before he has time to decide. So the enthusiasm and interest in this object goes on for a few more minutes before the male drops it and then carries on announcing to the world that this is his territory. So is the nest box on my wall above him and it has has been his for some time.