NATURALLY THINKING

By Margaret Waddingham

Articles published in the Caundler Magazine

I bet the swallows wished they’d studied the weather map a bit more before they headed back to our
shores. There were about 14 of them, all huddled up on the power lines one rainy morning in April
looking decidedly miserable. However, some of them soon found shelter and by the end of that
month they were safely ensconced in a nearby stable. The house martins, being a bit more sensible,
didn’t arrive until the beginning of May. Being hopelessly outnumbered by sparrows, they seem to
have given up the fight to make nests at the back of our house but are still quite interested in the
front, which so far hasn’t come to the sparrows’ attention.
Talking of sparrows, I watched a sparrow hawk dive into the hedge for his breakfast one morning.
He missed and sat for some time at the bottom of the garden on the fence, looking thoughtful. He’s
such a handsome bird and I really don’t mind him taking the odd sparrow now and then

something’s got to keep the ever increasing numbers down. They now completely monopolise the
tree nearest the French window, leaving the feeders on the apple tree more or less to the other birds.
The sparrow hawk isn’t the only bird on the lookout for a quick meal. Crows are quite savage too.
Brian recently found one that had attacked a pigeon. The pigeon was still very much alive and
flapping but Brian didn’t think he would have been for long the way the crow was going for it.
Talking of crows, a friend has a bread-dunking one in his garden. It picks up a crust and takes it to
the birdbath to deliberately soak it before gathering it up to eat it. I’ve always said that ‘bird brain’ is
an insult to birds.
For a short while the gardens at our end of the village played host to an Eastern Rozella parrot. It
was a colourful bird ‒ green, blue, yellow and red ‒ and although it didn’t actually sing, it seemed to
join in the dawn and evening chorus with a clear bell-like note which rang out over the more gentle
tones of our native birds. It stayed around for about two weeks, but disappeared the weekend of all
that rain and wind. I think it had had enough.
You never know what you’re going to come across in the lanes round here. A friend was driving
along by Haddon Lodge and there, sitting on the railings, was a baby owl. It sat quite still and wasn’t
in the least fazed when she got out and stood nearby to take photos. I checked up with the Dorset
Wildlife Trust who said that it was a baby tawny owl ‒ apparently when they get too big for their nest,
they go and sit somewhere nearby and squawk a lot so that their parents will continue to feed them.
This one was obviously full up and just sat there, all fluffed up and sleepy.
I had a report of a greenfinch that had had a fatal accident against the window of a near neighbour
recently. It flew into it and broke its neck, but on closer inspection he found that it was ringed. He
took the details, relayed these to the BTO website and discovered that it had been ringed in Thetford
(Norfolk) last summer. I think we share the same pair of bullfinches with this neighbour. They have
been feeding in both gardens but have stopped coming here over the last week or so. Hopefully
they’re nesting.
The nightingales are back on Lydlinch Common. By the second weekend in May, Brian and I went
there at about 9pm, and in spite of the chill, there were three, possibly four, singing away very
adjacent to us, and joining in in the background, the soft churring sound of a nightjar. Very
satisfying.
I had an interesting note from another friend recently who had been looking into the habits of the
Greater Celandine (no relation to the Lesser Celandine) which grows on her wild verges. This flower
has bright orange juice in its stems, which, though poisonous, was once used to treat eye conditions
and warts, and like a lot of helpful plants from yesteryear, was probably grown near cottages for this
purpose. Ants are rather partial to their white seeds and in the course of collecting them, they
distribute them further.
Oil seed rape is very much part of our landscape nowadays. Its gaudiness rather dominates at this
time of the year, which makes seeing a field of buttercups even more pleasurable. There is such a
field at the bottom of Dancing Hill, just past the crossroads, and the other day, with the sun shining
on them and black and white calves grazing, it was as dazzling a sight as you could wish to see.
Margaret Waddingham
PS. My thanks for all those kind comments regarding these articles. It’s rewarding to know that
they’re appreciated.

About Margaret

Margaret WaddinghamI was born in Middlesex in 1935 and educated at a convent in Rickmansworth. In 1954 I moved with my family to Cranleigh in Surrey where I met and married Brian. We have two daughters and five grandchildren.
For 21 happy years we lived on the outskirts of Guildford, moving to Hatherleigh in North Devon when our children had fled the nest to get on with their own lives.

My love of writing goes back many years but it was not until I retired from RHS Rosemoor Gardens in 1995 that I was able to devote more time to this and my other favourite pursuits, gardening and the countryside.

For many years I was a regular contributor of short stories, poetry, nature and other articles to three women’s national weeklies, periodical regional magazines and local newspapers. I also had a book of the history of a neighbouring village and a couple of books of poetry published.

One day our daughters phoned to suggest, very gently, that they couldn’t get to us quickly in an emergency and that’s how we ended up in Stourton Caundle.

We couldn’t have chosen a better place and although Brian sadly passed away in 2018, I have come to appreciate the village more and more.

Genevieve (my mobility scooter for those who haven’t met us) and I wander the local lanes, drinking in all that is around me and when I can no longer do this I will still have a small, peaceful garden to sit in where nature comes to visit me.