Henbury Online Logo Link

February Ramblings

11th March 2024 – by Henbury Webteam
Back home  /  News  /  February Ramblings
whiteandgreen snowdrop flowers closeup photographyyellow and white birdbrown and gray bird on brown tree branch

Occasional Notes from a Dog Walker

February 2024

"Mirabile dictu"! The deep potholes were filled on Andertons Lane (although the lesser neighbouring mantraps were left alone).

It seemed a wonderful year for the snowdrops around our garden, but those on the Green remained to blossom fully in the first few days of the month. If you hadn't visited you should have – and looked at the bank under the Church Lane boundary. In a few weeks you could anticipate the bluebells in the same area. The primroses too in the wood by the A537 were just poking up the odd speculative leaf – but they always come.

On our morning walk during the first weekend of the month Dot the Dog and I noticed the first leaf buds breaking in the hawthorn hedges over towards Moss Cottage and Mossways. It seemed a bit-too-early sign of spring.

We heard on the grapevine that people taking soil samples had been spotted in the big flood-field. More houses to come? DtD was most incensed that she had not been consulted and will certainly raise an objection to any interference with "her" fields (and the territory of many of her canine friends and foes – possibly starting a "Dogs Out On the Moss" – "DOOM"). Who on earth would buy a house built on ground that is almost always under water (if they knew).

A "cold snap" came and went. It was nothing like the cold weather we knew when we arrived in Henbury in1978 – snow often made Anderton's Lane impassable and we could hear the roof timbers creaking at unearthly hours as the temperature dropped. All we got this time was some rather wet sleet. A drive to Leek to do the sort of "proper" high street shopping you can no longer do in Macclesfield was snowy and sleety but vehicles coming from the Buxton and Ashbourne directions were heavily covered in snow if their drivers had been too negligent to clear them properly.

Now – a serious grumble written in hot blood! Walking Dot the Dog along Anderton's Lane on that sleety afternoon around school-release time we were (almost literally) thrown into the hedge by a driver travelling far too fast in a narrow lane with few passing points. Drivers whizz along too fast too often but we don't usually have such a close call. DtD was all for biting the car (and I was tempted to kick the door). It wasn't a car I recognised but occasionally people whose vehicles I do recognise seem to rush along the lane (mostly driving Chelsea Tractors) – however most slow down and give us as wide a berth as possible. At least I can rely on DtD to hear oncoming traffic long before I do so that we can take refuge – if there is any...

Strangely, once again, despite the bad weather, few birds seemed to have come to the feeders. When we had (briefly) snow and sleet we would normally have expected the feeders to be fully occupied by relays of them – there are 14 feeding ports in all. Not even the long-tailed tits came and they are usually predictable visitors in harsh conditions. We did have a handsome bullfinch however, and the starlings, jackdaws and magpies made short work of the suet pellets on the bird table, assisted by a quarrelling pair of blackbirds. The house sparrows and dunnocks didn't come, nor the greenfinches and siskins we have often seen in the past.

It was a strange mid-month, with every weather imaginable. Sunshine (though not yet warm), rain (now the norm – rhyme unintended), sleet, snow and dense fog by turns. One afternoon towards dusk we heard a buzzard mewing. It flew low over the fields and up into the higher trees, presumably looking for a roost for the night. Some of the smaller birds returned to the feeders, perhaps having moulted for spring and starting to fatten up for breeding in a few weeks' time.

I had hardly finished typing the above paragraph (well, it was really written a couple of days previously) when things changed – but not the rain. Goldfinches and chaffinches reappeared, the starlings plundered the bird table, a couple of cock blackbirds quarrelled noisily and a blue tit started to investigate the box. More tits came to the feeders. Spring must be on the way. Next day the tit reappeared at the box, accompanied by his mate – they went off after a joint exploration so we don't yet know whether they have decided it's a des res!

Dot the Dog was fed up with the constant wet weather. She didn't mind the rain itself, nor the resulting mud (probably enjoyed them). However, on return home she knew she was going to be humiliatingly hosed down and shampooed and then confined to the utility room swathed in towels for an hour or two before being allowed back on to "her" settee in the kitchen. Even so, she developed a sneaky technique in for having a good shake before she was completely cleaned up, so muddy spots on the floor, walls and cupboards. I'm sure she is more intelligent than we are...

After another wet night (water cascading again down Anderton's Lane and across into Mount Farm's drive) a brighter afternoon came. S and I walked along the track to the cottages and collected pussy willow and silver birch catkin twigs from the hedgerow trees – the hazel catkins, beautiful a few days ago even in the rain were going over. Dot the Dog was rather grumpy about the delays and pauses. Reminiscence sets in – as a boy in the late '50s and early '60s in Suffolk my friends and I cycled round the lanes and collected armfuls of pussy willow and catkin twigs that went into our saddlebags to take home for our mums – graciously received but perhaps not always entirely welcome.

Nearly the end of the (leap-year) month. Suddenly a bright full moon brought overnight frosts and sunny but cold days. The mud thickened and Dot the Dog was spared the indignity of a hosing down rather than just towelling off.

Birdsong began in anticipation of spring. S and I had difficulty identifying some of the songsters. How useful it would be to have Percy Edwards to guide us.*

* For explanation to younger readers, Percy Edwards was a regular broadcaster, in the days of black-and-white radio with no TV and on into the '70s, a bird-call impersonator and ornithologist who mimicked birdsong very accurately simply by whistling. He gained an MBE for services to ornithology.

If you already know this – well, we're a bit long in the tooth aren't we?

As ever

Horrid of Henbury

Editor's Note – in the absence of Percy, readers could try the app ChirpOMatic.

Henbury Online is powered by our active community

Please send us your news and views.

© 2016-2024 Henbury Online