In a sheltered dimple on the far bank of our stream, facing south, we have spotted the first three tiny yellow lights that herald the Spring — they are ranunculi, brilliant buttercups with pointed stellar petals — broaches on the tweed of winter. At this signal the woodpeckers have begun to drum.
There is perfume in the air and overhanging the water, hazel catkins are dancing in gusts of March wind and the sunshine makes long shadows. Clouds of frogspawn drift across the pond, strangely not reflected in the sky.
There is birdsong and the hum of passing wings. The female pheasant from last year has reappeared. Magpies are bickering and squawking in the field and above a circling buzzard mews so I go to check the sheep — a buzzard sees or smells a labouring ewe from high in the sky and will dive and swerve and snatch the precious afterbirth from the squabbling crows — but not today.
They will have to find some other quarry and that has reminded us that it is time to put up the bird boxes and the bat boxes that we made last winter.
Prime real-estate – detached timber homes of French oak (offcuts from the office shelves) and other experienced material (hundred year old doors) deconstructed by a son and now born-again bat boxes with loft-ladder access from below (not shown).
We have sited them all carefully. For bats: on the flight-path through the wooded glade at different heights for different species and facing for the morning or the evening sun.
The bird boxes face North-East, shaded and protected from the prevailing wind and sited with great thought, and not a little argument, about the specific requirements of the intended tenant whose name is penciled on the side – a test of avian literacy.
Do you think the mouse that was squatting in a bat house while it waited in the barn (avoiding the cat that sleeps on the rick) will find it up the tree?
Never overlook the importance of opportunism and untidyness in habitat creation!