Churchyard Nature Note with Andrew Tompsett

April 2015

April – the Prince of Seasons

April with Easter, what more could one ask! Everything around us reflects joy and reasons for rejoicing.  We only have to enter the churchyard to see the evidence of spring and within the walls of our church will be seen and heard the story of Jesus’ rising, celebrated in word and song.
To quote from Robert Browning (1812-1889) ‘Christ rises! Mercy every way is infinite’. In his familiar words ‘ Oh, to be in England now that April’s there’ from his ‘Home thoughts from abroad’, he was homesick for the special nature of the English spring as he thought of the tiny leaves near the base of the large elm tree, the chaffinch on the orchard bough, the powerful song of the thrush and the bright golden buttercup.
We should show these things to children. There is much to be learned from the observations of former generations and children seem to be less observant about natural history than those of earlier times. Take the tiny leaf round the elm tree bole. Buds low down to the ground sprout early because the ground retains warmth whilst higher branches stay cold. There is a warning here for gardeners since late-spring frosts occur mostly at grass level and the wise gardener will lift tender plants up to table-top height or cover with a light fleece during those risky spring nights.
Birds that in March were competing for sites are now busy nesting and raising young. So much of our enjoyment of the churchyard is related to the birds and their habits that it is of concern to learn that many of our small garden species are declining in numbers. Have you noticed this in your own garden?
At home we shall be taking the advice of a local veterinary surgeon whose recent lecture centred on the gruesome infections which are now becoming common and can affect certain species, particularly chaffinches and greenfinches. These afflictions tend to be passed on through the intense activity around garden bird tables and feeders and it is not only important to scrub and sterilise the feeders and tables but to move them regularly to fresh locations.
Much as we love to watch birds at close quarters, and there is no doubt that small birds benefit greatly from winter feeding, the latest advice is to cease feeding garden birds in summer, perhaps withhold feeding during the whole period of British Summer Time. It is reckoned that birds can readily find food in the wild during the summer season and the young ones are then safer from eating unsuitable foods and picking up infectious diseases from bird table feeders. Enjoy birds but let us not kill them with kindness!
Now that the churchyard volunteers have completed their 2½ yr programme, grass cutting and grave trimming are the order of the day, as well as dividing and redistributing some large clumps of snowdrops. The recently hung bird boxes are much appreciated!
You may have noticed that substantial safety work has been carried out by Western Power contractors on trees adjacent to power lines. Also three quotations have been received for the necessary renovation of the north wall and grant applications have been submitted.
2015 promises to be another busy year!