05 January 2012

Birds and Berberis

A quiet week. Son back to Canada (au revoir et bonne chance cm), Christmas tree to the park for shredding and re-use by the council as mulch, me back to work.

Fighting a cold still so sitting in the home office (in reality a tiny bedroom upstairs) looking out at the birds in the garden this morning: collared doves, blackbirds, thrushes, blue tits, coal tits, blackcaps, feral pigeons, a shy dunnock, and I know there are wrens, robins, great tits and sparrows too. Occasional visitors include a sparrow hawk, long-tailed tits, starlings (always plural), mistle thrushes, chaffinches, bullfinches, green finches, wood pigeons and last winter of course there were fieldfares and red wings. 

A policy of no chemical pesticides or herbicides, and the inclusion of bird-friendly plants (including ivies both for shelter and berries), has meant that the garden always has movement of some sort in it. And in the winter, when there's so little else going on, it's great to see the birds busy feeding and sometimes squabbling. It won't be long before their thoughts turn to 'country matters' and there'll be great singing and fighting and building of nests getting underway. 

The thrushes and blackbirds love to feed on some old apples I've chopped up and strewn on the ground, but more than that, they love the crab apples on my neighbour's tree and the berries on the Cotoneaster horizontalis and Mahonia that grow in my own garden. In a small garden in the suburbs, it's a bonus when your neighbour plants trees/shrubs that you love and and get the benefit of -- and the Malus (crab apple) and a lovely rowan tree next door certainly fall into that category. 

My other neighbour has a Berberis that grows alongside a shared wall - it's not a shrub I particularly like, the orange flowers are a harsh colour and the leaves tiny and nondescript. But another of the genus caught me by surprise the other morning - a beautiful scent on the winter air stopped me in my tracks on a morning walk. And there it was, hanging over a wall into the park, yellow flowers, large (still spiny) dark green leaves and definitely a more prepossessing appearance than the more popular one in most gardens. 

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