Basin Notes - January 2001

Nature avoids the hustle and bustle

The hustle and bustle of Christmas is just round the corner and it's stabilising to reflect on the natural world, where things are going along as normal.

The orderly lives of waders and ducks along the tide line calmly waiting the turn of the tide, set against the golden long light over the Basin at this time of year, make a calm and lovely picture.

Bare silhouetted trees marching along the field margins on Rossie and over Maryton, lit from behind by the setting sun, are compensation for the short days of winter.

The swans are often seen flying across to the Maryton field designated as their sacrificial feed and sentinel grey heron enjoy sunning themselves on the field margins. It's quite a sight to see up to 40 herons "on duty" at well spaced intervals along the field.

Many of the roads around the estates bear the hapless victims of road accidents, the pheasants charging across directly in front of the drivers' wheels, giving no chance to avoid them. Occasional hedgehogs and rabbits give the scavengers an easy meal.

Partridge, whether the French, the red legged or the native grey variety, are seen to be having a harder fight for survival these days than most game birds.

Contending while young with foxes and weasels, sometimes food shortages and pesticides, or simply bad weather in the breeding season and later with guns and precious little cover, they deserve our admirationand interest.

"A partridge in a pear tree", so runs the Christmas song; these are the French cousins who like to gather and perch and appear to have a good argument, while on their high perch give out their loud, challenging call. Well, they are Gallic in origin, after all.

In the garden, when there's hard frost and little food to be had, the robin will share its territory with other robins. Robins appear to adopt householders for a while and it's good to keep these little neighbours going with a daily supply of titbits and crumbs.

Even out in the woodland, the robin quickly latches on to any clearing-up operation which will doubtless turn up something in its wake.

At this time of year the dead wood has often profuse lichen and fungi growing on the bark or sodden, fallen timber. More books are now available on the subject of lichens and fungi, which are a most rewarding area of study.

When tidying up clean, dry leaves it's a good idea to place an old fruit crate over these in a quiet corner of the garden. Do the work wearing gloves to keep human scent from putting off the local wildlife. Cover up the whole thing with herbaceous or hedge cuttings to give a snug home for a hedgehog over winter. They keep the garden pests in check, slugs and snails being on their menu.