The poor moorhens


All winter it seemed to rain and even in May we had flash floods and I was up to my car exhaust in a big road puddle and I had to make a dash for it.

Through those wet winter months two moorhens, like little pirates, came rushing to steal from the bird table, they are black with twitching tails showing a flash of white. Every day I watched them coming down the meadow path and then, believe it or not, they climbed the wire gate by running vertically up without hesitation, as if that was the most natural thing in the world. Then on they ran into the garden and picked up seed from under the bird table with their red sealing wax beaks. Peck, peck they went in unison and then at the slightest noise, they made a dash for it with a flick, flick of their warning white tail feathers. Off they went into a sea of green grass with their sail tails blowing in the wind.

But then, at last, we had some warmer weather and suddenly spring tumbled and bumbled into the summer that we hope will be dry and hot.

Wild flowers crowded each other out – no sooner the primroses than the cowslips, no sooner the bluebells than the wild garlic and now the frilly hedge parsley is shading the lane. The buttercups seem to be growing a foot a day and Oak Meadow is a mass of golden bounty.

Nearly three weeks ago only one moorhen came running down the meadow path, vertically up the fence and into the garden. Peck, flick and then he was gone. Where was his mate? Deciding against trying the vertical ascent I opened the gate and rushed off down the field. In a deep, dark corner of Oak Meadow there is a shallow, old farm pond rather like my big road puddle. This winter it had been full to overflowing and water lapped the bank but it usually drains away in the summer.

I stood scanning the pond until I saw a neat little nest of dried grass, right in the middle of the water surrounded by green shooting reeds. And the moorhens had pulled the spear leaves over to give their cradle a roof so that you could hardly see what was inside. But if you peered carefully as I did, you would be able to spot the give-away red on the beak of the sitting bird. The other moorhen was nonchalantly walking on the bank as if he was not guarding anything important. But I knew better and tiptoed away.

The eggs are sure to hatch soon but of course the continuous rain has stopped and to my horror the pond is now drying up – the nest will soon be high and dry in a brown murky sludge. The fluffy baby moorhens will have nowhere to swim and they could stick in the gloop and surely die.

I have my fingers crossed for rain every day (sorry summer) – and especially for a cloud burst. So if you get caught in that cloud burst just make a dash for it and think of how it is all for a good cause and how the poor, stranded baby moorhens will be saved.


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