Well, the conference happened, the potatoes got planted, and I plunged into weeks of typesetting and grant applications, from which I'm only gradually re-emerging. I spent one of my regular weekends in Devon, where there was both joy and sadness in the garden: some lovely flowers and much glorious greenery to enjoy, while sympathising over the azaleas and camellias which had come out only to be blasted by frost. I took my mother to the garden centre and bought her two orchids on special offer to cheer her up - the wonders of micro-propagation! My retiring President sent me one, too, pictured above and still being enjoyed, though I have no confidence that I will ever manage to make it flower again.
The high point of the weekend past was moving the bird feeder. For over a year it has been in the same place in view of the sitting-room window, attracting a flock of "regulars" while affording them good protection from cats, kestrels and sparrowhawks. My resident flock of sparrows appreciate the hawthorn hedge just behind the pole, to perch in while they wait impatiently for food to arrive, to scold me from while I fill feeders, and to flee into if a sudden threat interrupts their feeding. The woodpeckers like the corkscrew willow near the pole, varying their diet with insects while they await their turn at the peanuts. The collared doves, woodpigeons and blackbirds all feed on the gravel underneath, amply supplied with seed by the sparrows who fling most of it out while searching for particular delicacies. The robins help with the filling of the feeders, perching in the garden bench until I put a tiny handful of seed on the seat for them. Happily, the feeding station could be moved to a similar position near another willow, and the residents have adjusted without difficulty.
At this time of year the day-long clamour of birds just living their small lives is staggeringly loud. Recently a small flock suddenly swooped into a tree next to me, all following two sparrows who were oblivious to everything but their conflict over, I imagine, some especially lovely lady. The noise was tremendous – I am sure that the followers were all shrieking "Fight! Fight!" like the "big boys" who used to scare me in the school playground. At night I have been surprised by the noise made by lapwings, nesting for the first time just over the garden fence – they swoop and squeal until well after dusk. As soon as they stop the owls take over, and sleep is punctuated by screeches. Elder son, enjoying a brief respite from the honking taxis and pubs of Edinburgh, commented that it was pleasant to enjoy the comparative quiet of the country, but those sparrows did make quite a racket!