Country Diary: Rare species of bird nests at Fairburn Ings

Spoonbills have bred in Yorkshire for the first time in 400 years.
Spoonbills have bred in Yorkshire for the first time in 400 years.

It’s “The Good Life”. Tucking into our home-grown potatoes and beautiful broad beans grown in containers in our car park. Enjoying Digby’s cucumber, and Paula’s rosy-red rhubarb, summer’s a time of sharing one’s produce, and awaiting vegetables in season. June’s day of torrential rain provided a much-needed boost to gardens.

Our miniature ‘alpine plateau’, provides a riot of colour in the car park for a month or so. Colourful, carpeting dwarf alpines, on a solid concrete base, attract hundreds of insects, including honey, and bumble bees. All good for pollination!

As I suffer sleep deprivation, having only two or three hours’ sleep most evenings, I’ve tried most potential remedies, but to no effect. Songs, conversations, and walking routes go round and round in my head for hours on end! Sometimes a sprig of lavender seems to help, or visiting new scenes in the countryside helps relax the mind. So it was, we drove to Bulmer – a charming little village south-west of Malton, and about 30 or so miles from Scarborough. The journey took about an hour each way, and proved most interesting. Tigga enjoys the drive in itself, and closely observes the scenery – for sheep! His keen sense of smell directs him along new trails of discovery, immediately we leave the car.

Meadowsweet swamped roadside ditches with its ‘frothy cream’ clusters of fragrant flowers. It was used in the 16th century to strew the floors and mask any smells. Its older name, medesweete was given, because the plant was used to flavour mead, the Anglo-Saxon drink made from fermented honey.

Tall spires of rosehay willowherb now colonise bare or waste ground. Its pretty pink flowers become a cheering sight to people during the Second World War, when willowherb was one of the first plants to brighten bomb sites, and cheer folks along.

In Victorian times it was often grown in gardens as an ornamental plant. It’s far more widespread and abundant nowadays.

The meadow crane’s-bill is one of Britain’s most distinctive wild plants. It’s often planted in gardens, as it flowers for so long, especially if dead-headed. Its large flowers have five broad petals, usually a soft, violet colour, with darker, radiating veins which guide bees to the nectar. You’ll discover many colonies along roadside verges, especially on chalky soils.

Now, have you heard the exciting news that spoonbills have nested at Fairburn Ings RSPB Reserve near Castleford? It’s the first time this rare species has bred in Yorkshire for 400 years! Three fledglings are now exploring their surroundings.

Meanwhile, Michael’s completed a dozen nest boxes designed to help a declining population of tree sparrows. They’re so successful, the sparrows have requested another dozen to be erected at a site in Filey’s Country Park! We can all play a part in helping restore our bird population.