Winter wonders


 

When is the best time to have your water tank spring a leak? The answer is, of course, ‘never’, but probably the worst time is at night, at sub-zero temperatures in a pandemic.

We were ready for bed, waiting to watch a relaxing TV programme with our cups of cocoa (not really!) when Mr T went to put his towel in the airing cupboard. The carpet was wet.

‘It must be our hot water bottles stored there,’ we thought, but we have not used them for years. ‘We must have put something away wet.’ We would not put anything in the airing cupboard dripping with water. ‘Condensation?’ We had never had trouble before.  We ran out of our denial tactics when we saw a cold trickle down the big copper cylinder. There was a leak.

We decided against holding our finger in the hole like the little Dutch boy. Instead, I checked the list of emergency plumbers online. The third one picked up. They would come – for a huge call out price and an unbelievable amount per hour. I booked them.

To cheer myself up, I have been watching a green woodpecker on Oak Meadow. I last saw one 40 years ago when I lived in south Shropshire, but I have known for several weeks that there is one here because I have heard its unmistakeable laugh. There is nothing really to laugh about, with holes in water tanks and bank balances, but this bird manages it.

He was after ants, which are really all he eats. Ants are cold blooded and in winter need to hibernate in houses, under stones or underground. Our green woodpecker must have sensed them clustering together in Oak Meadow because I saw him piercing the frost layer with his strong, long beak. He stayed there for quite a while, working like a hammer drill to get every last ant.

Now, to add to our collection, we have holes in the soil where the woodpecker has ‘dug out’ his prey. With cold weather it is difficult to believe that there is anything there.

But even on the bleakest of days the lifeblood of nature is still pulsing. Though we cannot see much going on, things are still alive.

Plants and animals are thriving. The snowdrops are already flowering here, and the daffodils are shooting above the ground. We are inundated with bird life too. When I make ‘bird pudding’, from any suitable kitchen scraps to hang out in a feeder, it is interesting to watch the pecking order. The tit family is the most numerous, but the great spotted woodpecker is the favourite.

The green woodpecker, however, spurns my offerings in favour of his beloved ants. We are all getting by in our own way, just waiting for the spring.

(Taken from my column in the Shropshire Star)

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