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Where have all the birdies gone?

In years gone by we had a fairly good complement of birds. Barn swallows enjoying the various barns. Sparrows nesting in every nook and cranny. Wrens. Tits. Jays. All sorts of noises and feathered friends, including one that put out a lovely song in the pitch black!
This year started like any other. The barn swallows arrived exactly on schedule. We stopped seeing robins and starting seeing sparrows. The swallows themselves are extremely distinctive birds, with a wing shape like a fighter jet and the black/white colouring of a killer whale.

Around this, however, is a lurking problem. In the past years farmers have been encouraged to create "set asides". Areas of land left to just grow as nature desired. Some went weedy, some turned into reasonable meadows. All were a haven for butterflies and bees.
This year? Rip it all down. Plough it all under. Chuck down corn (as in maize). It seems like every spare bit of land is being laid to corn, even when it is nonsense. A low-lying field nearby has been laid to corn. The farmer rough ploughed and tossed the corn in. Sounds a bit naff? Well, we know corn won't grow there. He knows corn won't grow there (his brother tried a few times, years ago, failed...). Some bloke has said "put some corn in here", without paying any attention to the fact that the field is always damp and spends a good part of the winter holding giant puddles, puddles in fact that are almost baby lakes. So some suit with an "agricultural degree" thinks they'll get a decent head of corn out of that field? Make us laugh...
What is it? Is Europe trying to bail out the problems and corn shortages in South America or something?

The wild areas now are the road verges, however this area is known for sudden strong downpours. Accordingly the roadside ditches are often around 50-80cm (3-4 feet) deep. So right in flowering time, the area between the road and the ditch was mowed to within an inch of it's life. The wildflowers now live in various uncultivated parcels of land, and whatever space they can eke out between the roadside ditches and the fields.
This is shocking - to try to encourage wildlife, and then change policy like that to remove many places where wildlife used to live? Has nobody thought that this maize, colza, wheat, barley, oats... it is all in the seeds. And the seeds are what? Try this: the result of a pollinated flower. And what will be doing the pollination? Exactly.

Today. The solstice - I think? Whatever, summer starts now. Bees? A couple. Flies? Loads, but they're small. Sparrows? A couple. Maybe six. Barn swallows? Not a single one. Wagtails? Wrens? If they're around, they are hiding well. This change, whatever it was, came about roughly a week ago. It takes one a while to notice, but now it is very obvious.
There is one bird out there as I write this. Looks like a chaffinch the size of a small pigeon (any suggestions?). It is quite melodious. If it stopped singing, there would be silence. Total complete ubiquitous silence.

What has happened?!?

We like our trees. We like our weeds. We like our birds. But we can't do this alone. HELP!

 

So what is B.LOG?

Following from the ending of my Frobnicate magazine, some have emailed to ask if I would write smaller versions to keep them in the loop with my varied observations on life. And, well, I decided that since the BBC doesn't seem to shut up about their various "blogs" (especially the Radio4 "PM" programme!), it might be time to move away from the magazine format and into something more interactive. You cannot directly append comments to stuff that I write, so it isn't quite that interactive, however my site is (usually) updated weekly so this stuff will be expanding. I say "this stuff" as none of it is planned or scheduled. I might write a couple of paragraphs a night, I may write nothing.
What I do value is feedback. Email me (address at the top). If you give permission for publication (just say something like "it's okay to put this on your website"), then I may include all or part of your messages in the next I write, and talk about that. You can even make suggestions, like "hey, Rick, what d'you think about getting rid of bouncy castles", which leads us right on to...

 

Bouncy castle madness

A local council down south is banning bouncy castles on its land because of worries over their being sued.
Apparently a young kid was killed when some/an older teenager(s) romped around the bouncy castle at a private party and the person hosting the party was successfully sued to something like a million pounds? I'm not sure how I feel about this, that it was bad to have an older kid being more rough-and-tumble around the younger one (I think the case hinged on this lack of separation, a sort of "was anybody looking after the younger children?" thing); but on the other hand, life is not perfect. Accidents happen. It seems sad to me that in this day and age people are so willing to look for somebody to assign blame to (have you seen that yucky "BGR Bloomer" advert?) when nobody is perfect and nobody is on the ball all the time.
There is negligence, but then there is just plain bad luck.

When I was about 10, at my junior school in Yateley, I was smacked in the face with a high-speed cricket ball coming off of the bat. I was like 33rd outfield because I was absolutely crap at cricket. Didn't want to be there. We had no protective clothing to wear. The teacher wasn't too sympathetic about it. Well, you can see my nose is slightly out of line. Perhaps the only thing that saved me from brain damage was a lack of brain to begin with? :-) Was the school negligent? I guess you could argue. But then again, a ball was thrown to another 10 year old (who had a pretty powerful swing) and the ball was wallopped up the field... directly into my face. Planned? Of course not! It was just bad luck. It might have been Nicola-with-a-C or Nikola-with-a-K or Noodles (and that's all I remember of that class, sorry!) but it wasn't. It was me. Shit happens.

Which brings us back to the council panic. You'd have thought a council would have hired a bouncy castle along with some sort of supervisor (either from the bouncy castle company, a teacher, or maybe some PTA person?) to look after it. Which is a whole degree better supervision than a harrassed parent trying to manage a kid's birthday party (how do I know the unfortunate parent was harrassed? ever been to a kid's birthday party? it's enough to put you off wanting children). The problem to my mind isn't whether or not kids will have a bouncy castle. I rather hated them myself - but then I was the kind of wimpy little pratt that tended to get picked up and thrown around... The problem is will this be sufficient? After all, kids could do themselves a bad injury on a roundabout (we always used to make it go as fast as possible). They could do themselves a bad injury on the swings (I had a friend who tried to swing right around, ended up with a very broken arm and equally shattered ego). I bet dogs poop in the sand pit. Rip it out! Rip it all out! Arrest young children wearing hoodies on sight. Slap an ASBO on any teenager with spikey hair. Don't risk it, just do it!

<sigh!>

 

Midsummer

My American friend, Andy, said I ought to include a more up-to-date picture of me than is otherwise available. Well, the problem is I'm usually behind the camera!
Well, here is one taken just as the camera is starting to be unable to 'see'; on the evening of the longest day.
Me, evening of longest day.

 

Today's word...

Today's word is meretricious (meh-reh-tri-shus); which means affected, artificial, fraudulent, simulated; like if you knew somebody who walked around wearing a neck brace when there was little actually wrong with her neck (probably more going wrong above the neck), then she'd be acting in a meretricious manner (I'm not sure if "meretriciously" is a word). It's a sham, a fake, looking for the sympathy vote (or maybe a sick note?). In any case, it isn't real... it's meretricious!

 

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