Tuesday, February 02, 2010

After the Big Freeze

It's been snowing again today, gently, and I think most people are looking at it and thinking "Oh come ON now, enough already! We've had the snow and we don't need an encore."

I was watching a programme tonight about what has become known as The Big Freeze: I had recorded it but it was first broadcast on January 14, right in the middle of all the snow.

It was all about whether in future we will think it's worth spending billions of pounds on extra snowploughs and other snow-clearing equipment. My guess is that we won't. By April we will have forgotten all about it and will be dealing with next winter by the fingers-crossed method which has worked pretty well for the past twenty years or so.

So what is the lasting damage? Lots of holes in the road, that's what, some of them several inches deep. They will cost a lot to mend and if Leeds City Council has mended them all by next winter I will be astonished.

I think there has also been a huge decrease in the country's wildlife, and we perhaps won't know the full effect of that for some months to come.

But I'm noticing it in our garden. I feed the birds all year round, and every day in the frozen weather I put out water - sometimes several times a day.

One instant change was that all the birds suddenly looked like little round balls, as they fluffed up their feathers against the cold and became almost spherical - I haven't seen that for years.

During the time of the snow itself, I noticed several kinds of birds passing through - flocks of long-tailed tits, and blackcaps (which look like sparrows with - well - black caps if they're male, and ginger caps if they're female). Those aren't very common round here. There were plenty of bluetits, great tits and the smaller coal tits. Of the larger birds, there were mistle thrushes, which visit only occasionally.

And there were the usual woodpigeons, collared doves, blackbirds, magpies and jays, and a pair of robins which are still very much around.

But usually, in our garden, there are two separate flocks of sparrows. I've been looking after them and feeding them for years. I've even learned to make the call that they make to each other when they notice me putting food out and whenever I made the call - a series of little clicks is my best description - they would echo it and flit towards the bird table.

Since about the third day of heavy snow, I haven't seen any of them at all.

Now it's possible they've gone somewhere else - but I can't think why they would, when they always live here and there was always plenty of food for them and cover in the foliage in our garden.

So I think that, sadly, they probably haven't survived the cold. Why the other small birds - such as bluetits - should survive and not the sparrows, I'm don't know.

I hope the sparrows will come back, but I fear that they won't. And I think that my little flocks of sparrows are probably the tip of a very large iceberg of lost British wildlife.


Anonymous David said...

So much for the fall-of-a sparrow theory. That's truly sad.

12:03 am  
Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

All sparrows eventually fall for one final time, as do those who watch them. It proves nothing.

The Gospel of Matthew, tenth chapter, to which David is alluding, says "And are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall to the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows."

Note it doesn't say "without your father preventing it from freezing to death." That is not the implication. The implication is "without your father's knowledge" or perhaps "without your father's presence."

It only proves that our plan does not resemble his plan.

It's not where you go, it's with whom you make the trip.

I'm not saying this very well, so I think I'll stop.

2:34 pm  
Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

I am equally worried about reduction in the numbers of garden birds. They had a long cold spell to get through in spite of people like you and me crazily feeding them and maintaining unfrozen water supplies. Back in 1963 bird numbers dipped significantly but proportionately there were far more birds to begin with.

5:02 pm  
Blogger WendyCarole said...

sorry to hear about your sparrows.

We stil have lots visiting outr small yard thankfully. I did worry about the second collar dove but s/he turned up thenext day

7:45 pm  
Blogger Daphne said...

David - I had never heard this phrase before in my life. Oops!
Bob - - so I'm glad that you explained it! Thank you.
YP - it simply hadn't occurred to me that in 1963 there were more birds to start with: I'm sure you're right.
WendyCarole - I'm glad you still have sparrows, that's good news.

11:00 pm  
Anonymous Jo said...

I think they are hiding.... have you looked behind the sofa?

11:34 pm  
Blogger Katherine said...

How nice that people like you and YP feed the birds and look after them in these hard weather times. Good on you!

9:53 am  

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