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Old Whitetail

Sunday 29th July 2001, West Yorkshire

tawny owlTHE CALLS of Tawny Owls are a welcome interruption outside our window on a sticky summer's night. It's good to know that they're still around. I've always assumed that the calls we hear at this time of year are those of the parents driving the youngsters out of their territory, but that will come later, in September. These repeated calls - 'ku-wek' - are actually the fledglings demanding food.

common toad Going down the garden for potatoes, I pull back the old pond liner that I've used as a mulch, and find a small, portly Toad has made itself at home there. I'm glad of its assistance. One or two of the potatoes are showing some damage; probably due to keel slugs. I tuck the toad under another part of the liner and dig up a few plants. When I check later, it has moved back to its favourite spot.

There are tiny Frogs almost everywhere you look in the garden, and plenty of adults too. Frogs outnumber toads by about 100 to 1 in our garden.

These Maris Baird early potatoes have been excellent. I wouldn't call them waxy, but they're not watery like some potatoes, they don't have thick skins and they don't have what some people describe as an earthy taste. We've never had anything better from the shops.

Whitetail I'm glad to say that he's back again. I haven't seen our resident Blackbird 'Whitetail' for several months, although Barbara has spotted him once or twice. We've got a small influx of blackbirds at the moment and, judging by the purple droppings, it's those last blackcurrants that are attracting them. Whitetail first appeared in this diary in the spring of 1999.

Pastorale d'Été

It's high summer, a perfect afternoon, so hot that for once on our street there's no-one out cutting a lawn, building a wall, playing their radio or hammering. We can't get ourselves motivated to do anything either, so we wood pigeonsit under the parasol by the pond. For half an hour almost everything we hear is a natural sound. The swishing of a gentle breeze through the trees. It's such an all-round sound that it reminds me of the murmuring of an expanse of the sea, rippled by gentle waves. There's the occasional drone of a passing fly or bee. A distant soft cooing of Wood Pigeon, or Collared Dove. It's the kind of summer's day haze that composers try to catch in shimmering strings.

The only counterpoint to this new age ambience is the chattering of House Martins, and even they are more distant than normal, flying higher against the blue sky and high white cirrus clouds.

swifts We haven't seen Swifts since a few weeks ago, when large flocks gathered over the fields in the valley, but today we saw a group of four circling and screeching, as if they were playing tag, near the railway. next page

Richard Bell
Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

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