Our neighbours at Oldstead called by this afternoon. Normally it’s a quick chat on the path, as they walk their dog so it was good to extend the conversation. It’s also the first time they’ve both seen their house from the viewpoint of our garden. When I first came here there were more sparrows about the place than there are now. One reason may be that they’ve taken up residence at Oldstead. The place is chirrup full of passer domesticus we were told. They take over the house martins nests in the hemmel (barn) for the winter but this summer they refused to vacate when the migrants returned from Africa and fiercely defended their squatter rights much to the frustration of the martins who have now had to build new nests in less advantageous positions outside the secure berth of the old stone building. The main predators of their nests being woodpeckers or magpies. Our friends keep free range chickens and the ever opportunistic sparrows are helping themselves to their feed. In planting a small wood of native broad leaf trees on the rise next their property the couple have done a great service to wildlife and the environment. The sparrows certainly approve and when not liberally fertilising yards, roofs and garden with their droppings congregate in the young woodlands. Interesting to think that in the wake of the agricultural and industrial revolutions many rural parishes like ours would have had sparrow clubs. The whole purposes of such bodies being to kill as many of these voracious seed eaters as possible. Lucky for them that folk eventually admitted defeat on that score and, in towns at least, learned to tolerate and sometimes even love these cheeky avian residents.

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