Monday, 30 April 2012

Country rhyme, swallow riddle...

The north wind doth blow, and we shall have snow,
And what will poor robin do then, poor thing?
He'll sit in a barn and keep himself warm,
And hide his head under his wing, poor thing.

The north wind has been blowing around here for a month now - the whole of April. It's a raw, unfriendly wind that goes through you rather than round you, as the old countrymen put it. We did indeed have snow at the beginning of the month, and even now the hills around the village, just a couple of hundred metres above us, turn hard and white like frost-bitten noses whenever it rains at our level.

Most of the wildlife that can seems to have gone to ground - butterflies, bees, hoverflies and their ilk have put their heads under their wings for the time being. But the robins, to tell the truth, aren't having too bad a time of it here. Many people in the village put out food for the birds, and it's not really cold enough to freeze the ground, where the beetles and earthworms that make up much of their favourite menu hang out. They don't need the barns just yet - which is lucky as there are precious few left around here.

But I wonder about the aerial feeders - the swallows and sand martins that were spotted over the village at the beginning of the month. After those first drops of summer spattered across the roofs I'd expected a flood of birds to start arriving, but the shower seems to have dried up for the time being. Where have they gone? Did they turn back? Did they perish en route for lack of food? Or maybe the early ones we saw were the foolhardy young bucks, taking a chance on the weather while their more cautious elders bided their time? On the few sunny days that we've had the ephemeral dancing gnats and midges do appear, only to fade away as the frosty evenings draw in. Can the hirundines get by on that?

If anyone out there knows the answer I'd love to know. In the meantime I'm going to find a barn.

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