Baby sparrows fall

We have ‘July drop’. This is not a disease, thank goodness, but something perfectly harmless that happens to apples each year. Little apples, which have not developed fully, fall to the ground. It is nature’s way of thinning the fruit naturally. Ours have been dropping for some weeks now, but this year we had frosts late in the spring and so the fruit is not too plentiful. I am hoping the drop stops soon. We are relying on our apples especially at this time when we are trying to be self-sufficient in vegetables and fruit.

Two baby sparrows had July drop here too. They fell from their nest, somehow, I don’t know why. Perhaps it was a bird of prey that they were trying to escape from or the wind that broke up their flimsy nest structure. In any case, I heard their parents chirping from the trees and the nestlings soon toddled off into the nearby long grass.

The ‘common’ house sparrow is not now so common, in fact it is on the RSPB red list which means that there is cause for concern. Their numbers have fallen rapidly in the last 25 years and we do not really know why.

However, our population here does not seem to be suffering. I have watched them building their nests all year. They drag feathers and long streams of grass My pampas grass heads are handy for stripping to the stem and a friend of mine says that they pull at the string tying up her runner beans. It seems anything will do for nesting material.

They nest in hedges and any unoccupied bird boxes. They even build in the gap between our slates and dormer bedroom windows. Wire netting does not deter them and the noise can wake me as they chatter cheerfully, and rattle through the small holes. They are a nuisance.

Another nuisance, we have not had for years, is the rabbit. The fields used to be overrun with rabbits but in recent years diseases seem to have wiped them out.

Myxomatosis and a new viral disease means that the wild rabbit population has dropped drastically, in the last few years, like the house sparrow. Luckily, there is a vaccine for pet rabbits but the wild ones continue to dwindle.

That may be so, but we have two very healthy-looking young ones running about in the garden. As you know that could spell disaster for our vegetables. Peter Rabbit is all very well in story books but we cannot have him here. Greenhouses and vegetable plots have been gated off while we continue to hunt for the gap in the wire netting where they squeezed through.

I have been ill this last week. I booked an emergency appointment with the doctor. The doctor rang back and our consultation was on the phone. It was perfectly satisfactory, though It was not as comforting, and this will surely be the shape of things to come. 

(Taken from my column in the Shropshire Star)


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