The bonus of being predictable
The early arrival of Spring weather down here in South Devon has given us a kaleidoscope of floral colour. The snowdrops have barely come into bloom, before being quickly followed by primroses, daffodils and the first tree blossom bursting into life, due to the recent high temperatures. What a change from last year's Siberian blast and deep snow.
The cold nights have resulted in a flurry of activity. Especially in the morning around our bird table. Although the days are warm, overnight frost gives a chilly start. The peanuts in a squirrel proof feeder vanish in just a few days. I have also been scattering some old apples from our orchard, collected last Autumn. The blackbirds, redwing and fieldfare all appreciated the bonus of a fruit breakfast. So too have foraging mice and voles under cover of dark. A pair of robins have learnt that when our large old front door opens in the evening gloom, dinner is about to be served. They wait twittering and excited nearby as I crush a few nuts underfoot.
Every night we put out a cup of peanuts as a starter course for our badgers and a fox. After they have finished we often see a dashing long-tailed field mouse grabbing a quick bite. So it is no surprise that later we regularly hear a barn owl calling, checking out the area for a meal. There is real benefit to being regular when putting out bird food.
But imagine my wife's surprise last evening, while I was at a Devon Wildlife Trust board meeting, when she came face to face with a barn owl perched on a fence post just a few paces away. My wife froze, peanut cup in hand as the owl pinpointed a potential meal in the grass under our bird table. A quick dive and it had its supper.
As a wildlife television film maker I probably should not say this, but watching creatures on the box, or should that now be flat screen, is no substitute for the real thing. It is always a thrill to get close to wildlife, especially when they have learnt to trust us. But it should be no surprise about the apparent tameness of robins. Before there were people to put out food, robins used to follow the diggings of wild boar. I know my place!