A laugh is as good as a tonic

I have had an email from the Government. People who have been shielding may be eligible for some vitamins. It is vitamin D that we all make in our skin when we are in the sunshine. Those of us who have been indoors, more than usual, will have made less of the vitamin because we have not been exposed to much sun.

Apparently, I will be informed about it all again in January. It seems like a good idea because, even if I go out in the garden today, the winter sun is not strong enough. So, I have just added the tablets to my on-line grocery order. They are not expensive and for me, it’s not worth waiting for the machinery of government to decide. In any case, I expect they are busy with other things.

The birds are busy with other things too, from October to March when we need Vitamin D, they need lots of food to see them through. Watching birds brings a sort of sunlight to my mind, especially when I see the startling black and white spotted woodpecker. He has a bright red cap and rump and takes the food with his sharp beak and long tongue.

But there is another woodpecker that I have not seen or heard in the past 40 years. I used to see it regularly when I was in south Shropshire. You usually know it is there by its laughing noise. It eats ants; the eggs, the larvae and the adults and nothing much more. But in the winter, ants are hard to find and so this woodpecker will search in soft wood and look for other grubs.

When I lived in south Shropshire, my father came to stay at my house, one summer. At dawn, and at some ridiculously early hour, he came into my bedroom.

“You have a parrot in your garden. Come quickly and see.” Reluctantly, I got out of bed and went to his bedroom window and there was the shy green woodpecker. I can see why Dad thought it was a parrot. It has a bright green back with a red head and yellow underparts. It looks quite unusual with its black eye patches and moustache stripe. It saw us and gave a startled laugh as it flew away.

There have been no sightings of the green woodpecker here so far, but yesterday I heard its unmistakeable laugh, no other bird has a call like it. Then there are the little bits of soft wood appearing on the woodland floor. You can see burrows where creatures were once hidden. The green woodpecker must have been looking for food.

I am listening out for it again. We could all do with a laugh. It’s as good as a tonic for our health.

(Taken from my column in the Shropshire Star - with Vicky Turrell)

My ornament of the shy green woodpecker heard laughing in our trees



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