Triumphs in lockdown

A wren has built on a swallows' nest

The cow shed door is open waiting for the swallows which will be nesting any time soon. We close the door in the winter to keep the bad weather out, as we store our chicken food in there.

Every year, about this time, we wedge the door open in the hope that the swallows will nest here, and sometimes they do. At the end of the season their old cup nest, made of mud, is left behind on a little shelf high up in the apex. It tumbles with old tins and jars amongst the cobwebs.

I went to have a look yesterday and found that there is a problem. Whilst the door was closed, another bird has got there first. He must have squeezed in through the gap at the top and used the old swallows’ nest. Instead of the little cup waiting for its owners’ mud repairs there is now a domed lid on the structure. There is a little hole just above the swallows’ part and I can see green moss inside. It looks like a tea cosy waiting for the tea pot.

It is a wren’s nest. The wren’s scientific name is Troglodytes, which means cave dweller. Perhaps it was named after its nest which is like a little cave.

Our male wren has taken advantage of the swallows’ absence and purloined it for himself. The cock wren builds several nests and the female choses which one is the best to lay her eggs in. What an opportunist. He has saved time here and helped himself to the hard work of the swallows.

I can hear his shrill burst of song now. It’s clearer in lockdown but even when things are normal you cannot miss the loud voice of this tiny little brown bird, even above the traffic. I am sorry that the swallows may have to change their plans this year (haven’t we all?) but I will enjoy watching the wrens in the shed if the female choses this unique residence and lays her eggs there.

Our greenhouse is just around the corner from the old cow shed and I have another surprise. Our strawberries are ready. We are trying to grow as much of our own fruit and vegetables in isolation as possible. It gives us an interest as well fresh healthy food. My husband has chosen the variety Royal Sovereign. It does not produce masses of fruit and sometimes they are not always a regular shape, but the flavour is fantastic.

You don’t usually get these in a supermarket because they may not keep as well or look as good as other newer varieties, but they are well worth growing at home. I picked some today and they came off in my hand with a loud snap. Like a spark shooting from a fire. I ate them from a saucer and dipped them in sugar, as we did when we were children.

The Queen was served Royal Sovereign strawberries for her coronation banquet and then again at her Diamond Jubilee in 2012. If you taste the exquisite flavour, you will know why they are fit for a queen. I don’t advise the sugar though, if like me, you are putting on weight in isolation.

(Taken from my column in the Shropshire Star)


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