Wednesday, 15 December 2010
Closing in again.
After two or three days when the temperature has been above freezing and the snow has almost all gone, apart from in the shelter of walls and in the deep gullies, more snow is forecast. Arctic winds are set to sweep down from the North, gathering moisture as they come over the sea and dropping it as snow in the North of the UK, gradually coming down until it covers the whole country.
We have plenty of oil for our central heating and the Aga, we have plenty of logs for our wood-burning stove and the freezer is well-stocked, so we have little to worry about.
Not so the wild life. Do they know severe weather is on the way again? We shall never know but the farmer often forecasts the weather from the behaviour of the sheep and various old country lores suggest the animals and birds have more sense than we credit them with.
Last week in the severe weather they suffered. A neighbouring farmer found a barn owl dead in his barn, dead and almost skeletal, suggesting it had starved to death - such a tragedy as barn owls have just begun to recover around here. Our resident little owl survived mainly because of a road-kill rabbit near to where it lives in a hollow tree and many of the wild birds survived because we feed them every day.
This morning there was a dead sheep in the pasture, dead and - again - skeletal. Each day the farmer puts out silage, hay and sheep nuts - but not all the sheep will eat this - they prefer grass, and short of stuffing the hay into its mouth than what can we do to help a sheep survive?
Our resident rabbits have made their warrens in the hedge bottoms. They know a thing or two; the hedge bottom is usually the last place to get deep snow and if the warren is built on the "sunny side" then any watery sun that comes out will warm their warren a little.
Today the sky has taken on a cold look, almost navy blue in places, and the sun has never really mamaged to shine. All our old hawthorn trees, gnarled with age, have been stripped bare of their berries; most of the berries have gone from the cotoneaster and the pyracantha and the remaining crab apples are going bad on the trees.
So we have another wild life crisis looming for tomorrow and we must put out all we can in order to keep as many animals and birds alive as we can. Last week we bought a bag of dried meal worms - they are disappearing like magic!