Life and Death

Being surrounded on three sides by a church graveyard and on the fourth by agricultural land is the setting for daily life here at our new home & office location. All life is here.

In 5 or 6 weeks so far we’ve seen at least 3 burials, so we’ve been doing some calculations. The three sides of graveyard comprise, the original old churchyard whose residents rest long undisturbed, the municipal  burial ground in current use, and an extension to that, currently without any occupants. It was suggested when we moved in it might be a hundred years before the extension had residents – we’re beginning to doubt that. Not that it concerns us, with or without good fences, they make good neighbours.

One reason is the amount of life. The garden itself is pretty undisciplined, so the premature spring we’re having, is a source of discovery as mature plants show themselves for the first time. Snowdrops by the thousand, many other spring bulbs poking through, plus hellebore’s, cyclamen with many flower buds ready to spring up through their dense leaf cover, and more yet to give themselves away no doubt – it is only January.

And trees; the adjoining properties and our boundary contain many of them – obvious Scots Pines, Poplars and Ash, and at least a dozen others, Beeches maybe, I’ll need to wait until in leaf before I can recognise them all.

The result is so much other wildlife. Rabbits and Weasel, so far and Foxes are expected, but no Moles presumably thanks to good site selection by the church for a graveyard. And because none of the deceased neighbours keep cats, the garden is a profusion of bird life. The birds give the Weasel a hard time when he turns up.

Pigeons; Feral, Wood and Collared Doves, plus Jackdaws and other Crows and Gulls. (Found half a dozen Jackdaw and Gull corpses in the chimney sweepings too.) All the usual Great, Blue and Coal Tits, Green and Chaffinches, Wren, Dunnock, Blackbirds male and female and Tree-Creeper. Territorial cock-Robins standing sentry at strategic points, the Pheasants, the biggest of which happily jumps up on the bird-feeders to help himself.

A spectacular female Greater Spotted Woodpecker, and a second occasional companion I believe. She’s very noisy in this emergent spring – calling at the top of her voice from the highest branches in between rat-tat-tatting, hardly pausing for breath for half an hour at a time, when not attacking the peanuts.

My favourites – the Long Tailed Tits – turning up 10 to 20 en-masse 3 or 4 times a day. I love their behaviour at the feeders. The other tits are very skittish when more than one other of their own species even flits into view, even more so if a second species appears, particularly if larger – there is a clear pecking order amongst them all – it’s amazing how they recognize each other from the merest glimpse. All constantly rushing back to the nearest bush or hedge until clear to return to the feeder – constantly alert to who’s where and ready for flight at any time.

The Long Tailed Tits on the other hand, jostle 6 or 8 at time to one feeder, a tangle of fluttering tails, wings, legs and beaks, sideways, upside down, anyhow. They seem to recognize approaches from out of view of any other – whether of their own or another, only actually leaving the feeder if the approach is a more dominant species like the Great Tit or the Woodpecker, otherwise it’s every man for himself in the communal melee, whether you’re a Long Tail, a Blue or a Coal Tit or whatever.

(No Sparrows or Thrushes evident so far ? Probably need to make the property more Sparrow-friendly, they seem so rare these days ? I’m also going to have to dig the camera out.)

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