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Nature blog - Jenny Bourne

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Auld Lang Syne

Date posted: Saturday 31st December 2016

Auld Lang Syne

One small item of good news from the litany of loss and ‘unpresidented’ year’s events – some UK ash trees appear to have a natural resistance to ash die back, giving some hope in the natural world! At this time of year the park trees around the allotment site filter the low, winter sun through their bare branches and the recent heavy frost in Home and Bushy Park made a winter wonderland scene..

Last week I was up on the plot in bright, cold sunshine, doing some gentle fruit pruning and filling the bird feeders as the soil was frozen hard and not workable. I glanced round to see this chap, reduced to chomping the bird food on the ground. He hung around for a few minutes, fairly unconcerned about my presence:

At this time of year ird song is reduced to the connectivity calling of small flocks of goldfinch and long tailed tits while the only consistent songs come from the robins: ‘Robin song comes on strong at the end of the year, as if the bird were living up to its status as an emblem of the season. The simple scientific explanation is that, as winter arrives, male and female birds are re-establishing pair bonds and territorial rights.’ (Derek Niemann, Country Diary, The Guardian). As soon as I arrive at my plot the robin is at my shoulder, waiting for the high fat bird food to be strewn on the ground. After eating, it often warbles a gentle run of sweet, clear notes. Up to four of them have been engaged in robin ‘dog fights’, vying for the territorial rights.

The song at this time of year is plangent, melancholy and cuts through the cold winter air with piercing clarity and sweetness, a sound of renewal and hope: ‘For millennia, humans must have woken to robin song, in half-light without electricity, in silence without motorised vehicles. When there was no wind or rain, it would have been the only sound, a lone voice of affirmation at the dying of the year.’

A very Happy, Peaceful and Harmonious Year to all and let’s hope it’s a good one for the natural world!