Joys of the unfolding season around the house continue. Kim wakes early to the blackbird’s solo song. Later we both hear that most welcome and affirmative marker of Spring’s arrival in the uplands – the liquid song of the curlews over the wall in the big hayfield. Meanwhile, down in south burn’s wooded gorge, our neighbours at Bastle farm report the cuckoo’s return. I witness a buzzard over the crags being tightly pursued by a pair of crows who mobhand the bigger bird low to the ground, screaming their harsh cries, before it eventually escapes skywards and circles slowly off. In the mess of laurel bushes and crab trees by the east gate our resident sparrow gang set up a cacophony of twittering. Two rival pied wagtails fight furiously in and out of the ceanothus bush, making the glossy leaves shake. Most strikingly, two male robins seem at peace in sharing territory, or at least acknowledging some boundary invisible to us. A male chaffinch, having started its singular habit with car wing mirrors, now makes daily dash and peck forays against kitchen windows and glazed garden door, whether in hot dispute with his own reflection or catching insects not visible to the human eye is hard to tell. As the lengthening day ends I love to catch the rocketing by of wrens a mere foot or so off the ground. At the pond’s planted edge, clearing last year’s foliage, I delight to discover a thrush’s ‘anvil stone’ with remains of water snail shells much in evidence.
In the pond itself I spy with a start that most fearsome of predators, a great diving beetle. Like a miniature turtle, green backed shell with a dirty yellow fringe, this voracious creature will feast on anything it comes across so I fear for the emergent population of palmate newts. A few days later, much to my relief, a trawl with the net hauls a wriggling clutch of recently hatched newtlets. (pictured) The tiny amphibians, born from eggs attached to plant stems, were netted in water beneath their likely nursery, a mass of surface covering Brooklime (Veronica). The plants are anchored in pots by the broken paving stones I had carefully placed to line the pond when new. In previous seasons, having observed adult newts emerge from or recede into the narrow gaps between stone and liner I think these infants too will be relatively safe there…for now at least.
The pond’s early marginal flowers present joyfully harmonious shades of yellow, from small daffodils to batchelors buttons. The latter is a member of the buttercup family that should (according to the label anyway) be flowering from May to September, yet here it is in bloom now…Leaves me to wonder if this will mean them finishing flowering earlier than advertised. Next to these glowing plants is a carpet of Japanese dropwort. Their pretty pink edged leaves are already threatening to monopolise the shallow end with its pebble beach, clutching on to pots holding more delicate plants, so they will have to be managed closely as the season progresses.
What a joyful thing of a morning when about to take a shower in the upstairs bathroom to look out the window and spy robin, tit or blackbird having their daily splash and wash as well down there at the pond’s edge. No pool created for wildlife should be without a shallow tapering side to enable easy access for bathers or drinkers. Ours has the added value of an adjacent pile of old logs – the wildlife equivalent of seaside chalets or caravans – parked there for newts, frogs, toads et al to feed, shelter or overwinter among.