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From farm to feeder

Nature is remarkable

What a Winter! Just when we thought Spring was underway the 'beast from the east' hit Devon with the south coast in the front line. Beaches covered in snow and bitter winds made for an unseasonal start to Spring. Then, after the blizzards, the monsoon arrived. Torrential rain drowning our fields and bright red soil colouring the ensuing floods for days on end.

The snow resulted in birds queuing to get to our bird table.  Peanuts were a lifesaver. Although topping up the feeder four times a day seemed bad enough, dodging the deluge that followed to do the same was above and beyond the call of duty.

Yet now the incessant rain has turned to showers and temperatures have risen a few degrees, Spring has bounced back. Primroses splash our banks and hedgerow bases in vibrant yellow, while blackthorn blossom is bursting above.  The dawn chorus is now in full volume and everywhere birds are either building nests or incubating a clutch of eggs. As I write these words, a Blue Tit outside my study window is busy ferrying tuft of moss to its chosen box.  Another pair has already taken up residence in an old apple tree in the orchard.

I like to give them an added bonus at this time of year. An essential ingredient of eggs is the shell, made from calcium carbonate. Acid rain dissolves this mineral on the soil surface but birds are resourceful. Several years ago I noticed a Coal Tit smashing and eating an old snail shell, a rich source of calcium carbonate. We do not use slug pellets and so it is safe to collect any empty shells I find and crush them on the path close to our feeding station.  Now that is what I call recycling.

Andrew Cooper

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