Geese are roosting in the barley near us. Coming in the moonlight, casting flying shadows across the bedroom curtains and calling; such a wild sound. They seem to prefer to feed on the young shoots and will move from field to field to find the most recently sprouting. They are mainly Greylags with a few Canadas which keep apart; they know their own kind.
Cuckoo nestlings will be well developed by now, giving their foster parents plenty of work. The adult Cuckoo lays multiple eggs, each one in a different nest, often those of Reed warblers or Dunnocks. One usurper fills the nest which is meant for several smaller birds which it will efficiently evict. This was discovered in the 1700s by Dr. Edward Jenner who has been in the news recently while the search for a vaccine to protect against the Corvid virus is in progress. He discovered that the introduction, via a scratch, of cowpox which he acquired from a dairy maid’s rash, protected against smallpox, a major killer at that time; his gardener’s son was the guinea pig. (The word vaccination is derived from vacca – the Latin for cow.) As well as being a physician, he was also a naturalist and for a long time he had been intrigued by how the eggs and nestlings of the parasitised birds could be thrown out of the nest. Nobody believed that a newly hatched Cuckoo chick would be strong enough to be responsible for this act. When he actually observed and reported what he had seen there was still much disbelief until the treachery was filmed. The young Cuckoo instinctively manouvres an egg or nestling on to its back and slowly backs up the side of the nest until it reaches the top edge and then it’s farewell to the rightful occupants! A strange example of what must be inherited memory which, of course, what instinct is.
Young toads and frogs will be starting to leave the ponds this month where they hatched and the exodus could go on into September depending on when the adults spawned. If you have a pond where they spent their tadpole time you may find dozens of toadlets and froglets hopping around your garden for a couple of days as they disperse to safety. When I took the photograph of the toad in what looks like a very comfortable lily, I didn’t notice that there was another one in the water until I looked at the picture. When we are concentrating on one thing, we often don’t see what is nearby!
It’s tick time, so be careful when you are taking your daily exercise. As we have talked about before ticks can carry Lyme disease which could be transmitted to yourself; it is an unpleasant experience to suffer from this.
I have been much more aware of the changing trees this year than usual, probably because the ‘lockdown’ means I have spent a lot of time looking out of the windows. Some trees are already producing seeds and I particularly like the very prolific Sycamore. If you have one of these nearby you may well end up with a forest!
Wild roses are in flower this month, both the Field rose and the Dog Rose; the latter is also known as the Briar. The Dog rose is a delicate shade of pink, often fading to white as it ages; the Field rose is white. If you find that your commercially produced roses suddenly produce branches that bear wild looking flowers, this is because rose growers will graft a shoot of the domestic flower on to the stronger wild cousin to give better growth.
What wonderful big skies we have in Norfolk, and amazing cloud formations, particularly in the evenings.
Ben from Wroxham, who has written to me before, sent me an email when he read about Ozzy, our murderous cat, bringing in small animals. His cat does the same thing. (Don’t they all!) He asked me if there is any way to stop this habit. Well Ben, I think we have found the answer. Ozzy now wears a collar and I have to say that I’ve never really liked collars on cats because when working in practice I saw a lot of injuries caused by them, particularly elasticated ones. But Ozzy’s is non-stretchy, luminous by night and has a bell. At first she thought there was something following her but then she quickly got used to it. She has been wearing it for over a week, now, and so far no little bodies, so hopefully it will continue to be effective.
Stay well and safe, everyone and I’ll see you next month.
© Sheila Sims 2020. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org