1984 January to April

The first flower a lad gave me was a Blue Iris, which Andrew gave me. He nicked it from a grave. Typical. Maybe he’ll manage a red rose some day.

January 1st
The weather has been lousy, damp, cold, loads of rain and very miserable making. When I came home there were four Tufted ducks on the lodge and two Pochard. I didn’t go back to look at them closely as the weather was so bad.

I stayed at Andrew’s last night. We went a walk round town but the pubs were too packed to get a drink. I love him very much. He was dressed up last night and looked really fit.

January 4th
With a blue, clear sky and bright sunshine, it has been one of the best days this Winter. The only leaves really noticeable in the garden are the thick fleshy green foxglove leaves.

January 7th
The wind is strong and cold but the sky is blue with patches of cloud. On the 5th I saw three male Pochard, two male Mallard and one female fly off the lodge. Today I saw one male Pochard leave the pond. I am going to look for ducks after I have cleaned my room.

January 9th
This morning the sun was a warm orange glow in the sky. It froze very hard last night and most of the reservoir is covered in a thin layer of ice. The ground is hard and bits of snow have collected in the depressions.

I was very pleased at the different kinds of birds who visited the lawn and bird table today. There has been a Robin and Blue Tit in the bushes on the lawn and a Hedge Sparrow came to the bird table. I saw a Tit in the Elm which was either a Coal Tit or a Marsh Tit. Three Carrion Crows came to the bird table, which I don’t mind as long as the little birds get a look in.

The Pines by the reservoir are very green and I can see a lot of closed cones on them. I think some of them may be Swiss Mountain Pine. Their seed cases are slightly wing shaped so they will catch any available wind when they are shed and so be well distributed.

January 10th
This morning the sky was grey with a touch of blue. It is very mild and there is a weak sun. The Robin is hiding in the Redcurrant Bush. His breast is tomato soup coloured with a beady dark brown eye, beak, feet, white tummy and soft grey about his breast.

I am very pleased that it is a Coal Tit I saw the other day. It is a very sweet bird, small with black head except for a white patch on each cheek and the back of the head. The wings are green-grey and the breast is creamy, tinted orange. There is a black line runs down the neck and it is altogether a delightful bird.

January 11th
The sky was grey this morning with rain. When I arrived home at one it poured down very heavily. On the lodge there were two male Pochard and a female. One of the males had a much lighter back than the other one. Yesterday I saw a flock of about 300 Starlings wheeling about over Radcliffe’s field. This evening at four, two charming Blue Tits visited the bird table. Their tiny chirrups attracted me to them.

January 17th
The sky is cloudy with patches of blue. A Robin came to the garden and there were two pairs of Tufted duck on the lodge. Yesterday I saw a Coot on the lodge, one of the first signs of Spring. With the Winter gales a roof was blown off one of the new houses where the Chapel was. A garden shed was blown completely over.

January 18th

There are a lot of Douglas Firs by Entwistle reservoir and their blue-green needles look lovely against a clear blue sky.

January 21st
In the garden this morning I saw a pair of Coal Tits, busily creeping around the wall and trees. At least they take advantage of the bread on the bird table. There was a Hedge Sparrow being chased by a very territorial Robin and a Jet Blackbird perched on the Elm.

The forecast is for more snow. It will fill in the tracks and make everything look fresh again. A Beech tree up the back has had most of the bark around its base nibbled away, by sheep I presume. It shows how hungry they are. When really starving sheep are supposed to eat their own wool.

 I’m going round Entwistle reservoir now and then down into Edgeworth. This morning when I set off the sun was bright, the air crisp, clear and calm with blue sky. Most of the lodge is frozen over and parts of the reservoir. The roads were very icy especially the sides round the bad bend and up the steep hill. Near the Ashes just down the Lane I saw a Grey Wagtail flying. The very slate-blue back gave it away - one of my favourite colours.

Tonight in the front room I found a small green beetle. The kind that crawls on the docks in Summer. It was too cold to put it outside so I left it. It can feed from grass in the plant pots.

I love Titmice. They are my favourite species of little birds. I have yet to see a Crested and a Bearded Tit. I think I have seen both Marsh and Willow in the Lake District and also at Rivington. They are all, without exception, very beautiful birds. The Blue and Coal Tits are very playful and acrobatic. In winter Blue and Great Tits are easy to spot in the trees because of the yellow tummies they both have.

Roosting in the Horse Chestnut were half a dozen noisy Starlings. I have not seen as many this year so far as I usually see in Winter. There were some bird or rabbit tracks in the snow up the back which ended with strange marks. Maybe the wing feathers made them whilst wiping across the snow.

February. 2nd
I walked to Entwistle. The ground was damp and all the colours of brown bracken, green pines, blue and white sky, showed up really vividly. There was still snow in places. In Edgeworth in a Pine by the road that leads down to Wayoh, there was a beautiful Jay. I have never been so near to one before. Most of its plumage was creamy brown, the colour of a Thornton’s chocolate truffle. The bright blue wing feathers stood out and the clear white patch on its back. I could only have been fifteen feet away at the most.

Near the Strawberry Duck I saw a chocolate coloured female Blackbird. There don’t seem to be many Blackbird’s about these days. There used to be loads in this area. I left a note and some flowers at Entwistle then caught a bus to town, signed on, collected Joyce’s present, went to Andrew’s for half an hour and then got the half past four bus home. The fire had gone out and the place was a tip so I had to get cracking.

In Edgeworth the Hazels and Alders have small, hard, catkins on. The longest are 1½ inches and they are reddish brown in colour.

February. 4th

I love Andrew very much and can’t wait to see him on Tuesday. I’m also longing to see Syd again, who rang me tonight. There is a good friend if I ever met one.

February 5th
This morning it was quite mild at home, but cold without gloves. The sky was cloudy with tiny patches of blue. I saw a very thin Robin in the Elm so I rushed indoors to get some bread for the bird table. I planted two dozen crocuses in the front garden, and the Primrose from the back, so it will be safe from dogs and sheep’s feet. Some Daffodil bulbs are coming up in the front garden.

In the afternoon Dad and I went to Martin Mere, a bird reserve. We saw large flocks of geese wheeling in the air and grazing on the fields. We also saw loads of ducks, all looking very handsome. Amongst the birds, we saw were several Collared Doves who feed on the grain put out for the ducks. They are very bonny, elegant birds, even though they appear to be entirely one colour apart from the collar. I also saw Shelduck, Scaup, Shoveler, Smew, Teal of different kinds, Pochard, Goldeneye, Moorhen, Black headed gulls, Blackbird, Sparrow, Red breasted Mergansers and two male Pintail.

I think the two male Mallard I saw on the reservoir with brown backs and white necks must have been hybrids between Mallard and Tufted Duck, I could be wrong though.

February 7th
The sky has been grey with a blustery cold wind and blue patches of sky. I went to see Andrew, and climbed a few mountains. I still love him very much. I bought two packets of Nemesia, one of my favourite garden flowers. I hope they grow successfully.

February 8th
The wind has blown blustery and very cold, all day. The sky has been mainly blue and I think it will freeze tonight. I saw several Carrion Crows up the back, possibly looking for nest sites.

Unfortunately, the Hawthorn at the Tip has blown over. I was thinking how sad it is that so many of our Hawthorns have been cut down. In Spring, they are covered in fresh green leaves, which become darker and hardened in Summer and have beautiful, white blossom with dark red stamens. In spring they provide nest sites and perches for many birds, especially Thrushes; and in Autumn the red berries are not only an attractive sight, but they also provide food for animals and birds.

On the lodge at home, a pair of Goldeneye flew off. They climb very steeply in flight, and the way their black and white wings beat reminds me of a butterfly.

February 9th
It has been a beautiful day. This morning the sky was pale blue with a warm golden, (inspiration), ball of sunshine. I went to town at twelve to sign on and to buy a pair of binoculars. I took Cindy, and after buying the binoculars I caught a bus to Edgeworth.

By this time the sky was deep, clear blue, with a few cotton clouds. On Wayoh there were between thirty and fifty Pochard, mainly male – though I did see some females, who are just as sweet if not as colourful. There were also half a dozen Tufted Duck, who I think were sleeping. That’s all they ever seem to do. There must have been at least 200 Black Headed Gulls swimming lazily around, and two or three dark Great Black-Backed Gulls. I was very disappointed not to see any Grebes: there are usually several on Wayoh.

Just above where I saw the Jay last time, I saw a small, mouse-like bird, creeping about a large Elm tree trunk. It was a Tree Creeper. I think this is only the second time I have seen one. It had brown stripped back feathers, brown head, beady eyes, curved, thin, beak and white belly. There appeared to be an orange patch of feathers near the tail. It is a lovely little bird.

At Entwistle the water was choppy as a wind had got up. The only bird I saw was a Great Crested Grebe, sailing in the middle of the reservoir. I think it may have been a juvenile as its feathers were not very colourful and it had no crest visible. The back was grey, the neck ruff a drab ginger brown. The face, neck and belly were pure white, with a black strip on top of the head. The beak was pinkish brown, and the feet large-lobed, with clumsy green limbs. Grebes always swim majestically.

On Belmont Reservoir I saw a Canada Goose with a pair of Domestic Geese, probably the pair I saw last time. They look like Grey Lags, large broad and white with a touch of grey here and there. I was surprised how big and strong they appear. I saw some Grey Lags at Martin Mere, but they were flying in the background.

February 11th
It was a lovely morning with dreamy clouds and blue sky, warm sunshine and very calm. I went a walk to Entwistle with my Dad. There wasn’t a ripple on the reservoir, which is more like a lake. I saw a handsome pair of Grebes, a pair of Pochard, a large Herring Gull and some Mallard. Near the end of the reservoir I saw a Grebe on its own, which maybe the juvenile I saw on its own the other day.

This morning was the first this year when I’ve heard the birds singing, as though it were Spring. In the afternoon I went to Doffcocker with Andrew. The water has been emptied out. There were loads of fresh water mussels on the mud, and I collected some. The outer shells are striped, brown green and purple-brown. Inside they shine, green, blue, white and pink, like mother of pearl. It’s a great shame so many died. A whole population wiped out.

On a pond nearby, a male crossed Mallard and a female Mallard were swimming lazily. Its funny watching ducks chase each other, especially when they nip each others bums. I saw a Pied Wagtail bobbing over the mud, the first I’ve seen in ages.

February 12th
A nice day again, very cloudy sky with blue patches. The sun is shinning, there’s a slight breeze and it is very mild. Seven lovely Stock Doves came to the back garden early this morning. They foraged for food on the lawn and roosted on the stone wall.

I went for a walk round the Willows Den and the Pump House. In the Willows Den the American Alien [my name for the introduced Pink Purslane] has started to grow some new leaves.

Robbie says the mussels in Doffcocker Lodge, were Swan Mussels, which helps explain the size.

February 13th
A lousy day, but the morning was nice; hazy, cold, grey, with bits of blue and sunshine. Andrew came, and we went climbing mountains. Then he took some photographs of me. We went a short walk and I gave him a valentine’s card.

There are a lot of Beech Nuts at the top of the hill up the back. Andrew gave me a lift to the bottom of the lane, and I went to meet Madeline. Tonight I heard an Owl hooting in the trees. I saw a flock of 16 Pigeons fly past today. It’s freezing cold tonight and foggy.

February 14th
I woke at quarter past eight. Outside it was very misty, green and frosty everywhere. At nine I set off for Entwistle. The sky became a deep clear blue with warm bright sunshine, a lovely day. There was thin ice on the puddles which I enjoyed cracking.

When I arrived at Entwistle there was steam over the water as it evaporated in the warm sunshine. The water was so still it looked like a sheet of glass. I have never seen a reservoir so calm before. The only bird I saw was a Gull with pink legs stood on the ice. It was a Herring Gull.

I walked up the hill and past the Strawberry Duck and down to Wayoh, where there were loads of birds. There must have been nearly a hundred Pochard if not more, and at least fifty Mallard. I only saw five female Pochard, female ducks always seem to be a rarity. There were also five cross male Mallard; ones with brown backs and white breasts. I saw half a dozen Coots busy chasing each other and squabbling. Must be getting broody. It’s really funny watching a sleepy female duck being hotly pursued by a randy Mallard. Like a missile heading for a ship, underwater. Doesn’t stop till he gets there!

There were loads of Black Headed Gulls, sleeping or swimming lazily around in their Winter plumage. By far the best surprise were three Grebes. One was a slender, juvenile with paler plumage and no ruff. To my delight the others were two courting birds. The two Great Crested Grebes had handsome gingery brown neck ruffs, and dark brown ‘ear,’ tufts. Their backs were grey and necks bright white. They swam around preening themselves and rubbing oil from the gland near their tail onto their beak and feathers, sometimes bending the head right back to do it.

The Grebes pretended to ignore each other and then swam up face to face, nodding their heads in turn to show either side of the face. Then they bobbed their heads up and down while turning them from side to side. It was fascinating to watch. Unfortunately I did not see them rear up out of the water, but I hope to by returning soon; maybe tomorrow.

On Fisher’s land I saw one or two Carrion Crows, hopping about. They’re real little comics. I love them too. Altogether it’s been a lovely day, except I didn’t get a card. I asked the butcher (the fit one) if he had any and he said “yes thanks.” He was surprised when I said I hadn’t got any. “Did you not get it, I posted it.” I was chuffed as mint balls. The best thing was when a lad said “Hello, darling where’ve you been all my life.”

February 15th
A glorious day, blue sky, bright sunshine and hardly any clouds. It was very calm and most of the reservoir is iced over. There was a large group of ducks stood asleep on the ice. I counted 14 crossed and 21 normal Mallard; you can only identify the males – and 45 Teal! An awful lot of Teal for Belmont Reservoir. In fact I don’t think I’ve seen so many on the reservoir before. Most of the ducks were male.

February 16th
This morning the sky is overcast but I think there is blue sky close behind it. It is very cold and the ground is frozen. Yesterday when the weather was good hardly any birds came to the bird table, and those who did came in the evening.

This morning they were ready and waiting. A Robin in the Elm, with a Blue Tit, and to my delight a Thrush came to the bird table and got some bread. I think it was a Song Thrush, as its back was a light chocolate brown.

February 20th
Came home from London. The sky was grey and overcast with a strong wind and freezing cold air. There was ice on the lodge and it looked as though it might snow. At seven o’clock it started snowing as was forecast. My brother won’t be coming home, as he’ll probably be moving snow with his JCB. About 2½” of snow has fallen.

I had a great time in London. We visited Hyde, St. James and Regent’s Parks. On the waterways, ponds and lakes, were loads of beautiful birds; mainly ducks, swans and geese. There were also lots of Coot. I saw three Moorhen and two Great Crested Grebes on their own. There are lots of Blackbirds in the London Parks, especially males. On St James Park I saw two Pintail on the river and a pair of Garganey. I also saw loads of Canada Geese; and lots of Coot – many fighting, probably for mates. On the river there were two male Eiders and one very dark brown female. They are very broad ducks.

I saw a group of about six Ruddy Shelduck and one solitary one. They are very bonny. There were loads of Woodpigeons in the park and in the squares, especially Trafalgar Square. On one island were quite a few Carolina Ducks. The males are very colourful, exotic looking and far more noticeable than the females.

February 22nd
The weather is the same as yesterday, except for the temperature. It is much milder. The Robin and Dunnock have been rooting for food in the garden again. I watched the Dunnock through my binoculars. It is hardly surprising people call it a Hedge Sparrow as it looks very much like a Sparrow, maybe crossed with the shape of a Robin. The only thing that makes the Dunnock noticeably different to a Sparrow is the slate-blue on its breast.

February 24th
The sky is completely overcast and large white snowflakes are drifting down. On the reservoir and pond there have been lots of Ducks. Near the Water Authority bungalow I saw a pair of Great Tits in the trees. On Judith and Robbie’s lane, there were two Blue Tits playing in the trees. I’ve dug the front garden over again.

In Pump House Wood well there is a lot of very fresh green weed. I collected some in a bowl and a dish. I’ve one Black beetle, some water shrimps, and tiny Cyclops etc. I can’t wait to get some frog spawn.

February 26th
Its cold with a frozen ground, sprinkled with powdery snow and frost. The sky is grey and looks snow laden. Despite this, it is a nice morning. I got up at half seven and went a walk. I first called at Pump House Wood, where the Alders have chubby lime green, catkins on them, about 2 cm long. Then I walked down the side of the stone wall in Radcliffe’s Hay Meadow. I heard some honking, but I couldn’t see any geese. Then I saw rather a lot of rushes in Fisher’s field, or so they appeared. On investigation they proved to be 57 Canada Geese, which is nice, and I am glad to have them return.

There was one large white bird amongst them whose neck was too long for a goose, I thought. It may have been one of Fisher’s tame geese but appeared more like a swan. The Canada Geese flew off in two separate groups of roughly equal size. They flew around weighing up the situation, honking to each other. Then I saw one group land on the reservoir.

Usually when such a large group arrive in Spring only half or less stay to breed. I think one year fifty geese came and only eight pairs stayed to breed. Sometimes the odd juvenile pair stays, who do not raise a brood, but seem to protect the young of other birds.

February 29th
The weather has been awful with grey skies rain and drizzle and plenty of fog. On the pond I saw 17 large Canada Geese; they flew off when I got near. And, surprise, surprise, a large flock of Lapwings, who flew about close together like black and white fans. And a pair of Curlews on the reservoir! There was also a pair of geese on the island, may be building a nest.

Near the village I saw a Magpie; I saw one fly across the reservoir last week. They seem scarce at the moment. I’m sure they’ll return in the Spring.

March 1st
This morning there was fog, which cleared leaving a very fresh day with a hint of Spring in the air. However it rained heavily most of the day. I stayed in bed till three o’clock trying to get rid of a cold. I feel much better. Just as well as I will be very busy tomorrow. Joan is coming; I meet her at five o’clock. I haven’t seen any wildlife as I’ve been in almost all day. Tomorrow I should see my fair share of Ducks.

March 2nd
Yesterday may have had a hint of Spring but today is definitely all Winter. There is a gale Force, cold, blustery wind and it snowed in the night, leaving about half an inch of snow everywhere. This is typical bad, March weather. Has Joan brought it with her? Freezing cold rain is falling.

March 3rd
Compared to yesterday, today is beautiful: blue sky, few clouds, bright sunshine, but the wind is blustery and cold. On the lodge I saw a
male Mallard and the pair of Coots again, one of the first signs of Spring. To my amazement I also saw a large flock of Curlews.

March 4th
This morning was foggy. The day continued cold, with grey skies and drizzle. The fog cleared but came back at night. The wind was quite gentle compared to that of two days ago.

Philip and I went to Pump House Wood. At the Well we saw a few small dark grey flies hovering around. They moved like midges but were bigger. In Pump House Wood the Alder Catkins have grown longer, but are still hard, although some are turning more yellow. The Hazel is still alive but needs protection or it will surely die from sheep grazing.

We walked down alongside the wall of the meadow. On the lodge I saw a Lapwing and a Curlew. There was a small bird, which looked like a Sandpiper, but I was too far away to tell. I also saw a bird with a white belly, doing aerobatics, turning and swerving in the air. It was a different shape to a snipe and looked more like a Curlew but smaller. It may have been a Whimbrel. If so, I’ve never seen one before.

Then I saw a very large bird flying away with slow wing beats. For a second I didn’t know what it was. Then I realised it must be a Heron. It was. A large Grey Heron, flying slowly away, wings spread like gliders, head stretched and legs tailing straight behind. Unfortunately I did not see it close to, but I’m sure I’ll see it again. They are very wary of human presence and I think when the ducks flew away; the Heron felt it was time to move on.

I was very pleased to see it, especially as Philip was with me and I don’t think he’s seen one before, or at least not for a long time. At this time of year I always seem to see a Heron, but never a pair. Could it be the same individual? I nearly always first see it on the lodge.

March 5th
I woke at half past seven. Outside it was foggy and damp looking as though it would be a horrid day. The sun shone from a deep blue sky, with small cotton clouds, tinged buff and grey. The sun was very low in the sky at quarter past four and outside it was mild; very much a spring type day. When I went for a walk in the evening I saw the Heron; once again it flew away over the reservoir before I had chance to have a good look at it.

On the lodge I saw a pair of courting Goldeneye. The male swam about bobbing his head right back, to touch his back. The female may have “bobbed,” a little bit, but not half as noticeably as the male. On the reservoir I saw 27 Canada Geese, mainly swimming lazily alongside the island or resting in the rushes.

At home in one of the Beeches I saw three Pigeons, they looked as if they were courting. Probably two male’s in pursuit of a female. Who should be so lucky! This morning I saw a male Blackbird on the lawn. I don’t think I’ve seen a female one yet this year? On the reservoir I also saw the pair of enormous white domestic geese with their chum, the solitary Canada goose, again. They are shaped just like Greylags and built like brick houses. No insult to the geese intended.

There were a few Mallard swimming about and I saw some birds that looked like waders stood at the far end of the reservoir. On investigation they turned out to be a flock of about thirty Lapwing. All very handsomely clad in dark green and white feathers with pink legs, black plumes + orange bottoms. A real bird about town!

In the Lane Field a drain has blocked, or there is no drain + the drainage is terribly insufficient. A whole strip of field is waterlogged. It almost looks like the course of an underground stream. I can’t remember whether I mentioned this before or not but a Hawthorn tree has fallen in My Place. A great shame. We seem to be loosing all our Hawthorn trees, either to the forces of Mother Nature or to Albert's axe.

March 6th.
It has been a nice day with blue sky never far away from the grey skies overhead. I saw the Heron again, in the Lane Field. Still I haven’t seen it close to yet.

March 7th.
A very mild and overcast day, with drizzle, fog, and a gentle wind. The fog cleared in the morning: Cindy has been to the vets for her booster, and an operation to remove her ovaries. She is very dopy + feeling a bit sorry for herself and so am I. At Overdale, I saw seven Magpies and a rather handsome woodpigeon with a very “pink-plum,” breast, white collar and “grey-blue,” feathers.

The other day a pair of blackbirds escorted a one-legged thrush on to our lawn to feed from the daily scraps. The blackbirds charged head down, like geese, at a flock of boisterous starlings to keep them at bay, and made no attempt themselves to feed. Is it usual for birds to act as nurse-chaperones in such cases?

March 8th.
It has been a nice and very eventful day. Very mild, cloudy, with a slight wind and bits of sunshine.
I saw the Heron fly away again. Forbringer of dramatic news, good and bad. Last time I saw a Heron was just before I was ill. I believe they are forbearers of fate; more so than Magpies. There is just something about them.

I know a House Sparrow called Slatey: today he visited the bird table for crumbs. I called him Slatey because his crown and back are a lovely Slatey-blue. I know another house Sparrow called Bull, who often comes for crumbs. He’s called Bull because he looks big and strong and handsome, and he has a big black bib.

March 9th
For most of the day the sky has been overcast with the occasional burst of sunshine. It has been quite mild and in the front garden three crocuses are in bud – two golden ones, and a purple. In the back garden the Daffodils are growing well; the longest stalks are 6”. I am delighted by all this of course.

March 10th
More than anything else, I can’t wait to see Andrew again. I hope he feels the same way. He does. We made friends and will meet up again in May. So I’m happy for the first time in five weeks. Today I saw three
pair’s of Geese on the reservoir, ten Teal, and on the lodge about six Mallard. A pair of Goldeneye on the reservoir, and a solitary female.

March 11th
It was beautiful this morning, with patches of blue sky, outbreaks of brilliant sunshine, grey and white clouds and to my delight, a skylark singing. The first I’ve heard this year. On the reservoir I saw 26 geese and several ducks. And for the first time I saw the white domestic goose close to. It had a pink bill, enormous golden yellow coated legs and a few grey feathers. It was as big as a Turkey. Its mate wasn’t there, I hope she’s nesting.

I walked to Entwistle where first it hailed, and then it snowed huge snowflakes for half an hour; then poured with rain. Sam and me got soaked. The undergrowth around Entwistle reservoir was very colourful, as the rain brought out all the colours. I saw lots of Magpies today, especially in the fields along Longworth Road. They always come back in the Spring to eat sheep’s cleansings and dead lambs.

At Pips place I found some Water Crowfoot; I haven’t seen any for ages. There was a single flower, the first flower on the farm in 1989.

March 12th
I think today was the first day of Spring. The sunshine was warm and bright with only a few grey clouds preventing its brilliant glow. The rest of the sky was blue, with a breezy wind, and it was quite mild.

On the reservoir I saw about thirty-forty, Canada Geese, resting on the shore in two groups. The White Goose was with them. On the island I saw about thirty-forty Curlews. One group stood there resting while another flew noisily in to land. The white rumps of Curlews are very conspicuous, but I don’t really think I noticed them till today.

Yesterday I saw several flocks of Starlings and Lapwings. I don’t remember seeing any for ages. I think they go elsewhere in Winter and return in Spring when the extra feet of cattle and lambs kick up worms for them to eat.

In the plantation by the reservoir, at Pump House Wood, and in the plantation on the way to Entwistle, the Alders have their “yellow-red,” catkins on. A sure sign of Spring. Tonight the sky was very clear, with a great Moon and several stars. And it was BITTERLY COLD!

March 13th
Overcast sky, and it looks very cold. I heard the geese honking a lot last night. It is cold, but not quite as cold as it looks. I took Judith some Spring flowers, to cheer her up, as she has a very sore throat, and illness has been plaguing her recently. She was in, but probably fast asleep, and as both doors were locked, I left the flowers next door.

The purple and mauve crocuses are well in bud outside Pat’s and they look absolutely gorgeous. I took a few photos of them, and of Dusty, who went with me. Dusty is full of Spring fever, she pranced about the Lane Field, tossing a bone and catching it. She is a Taurus and they are supposed to love the earth.

In the pond water I collected about two weeks ago, I have discovered some Hydra! I was very excited as I’ve never seen them in my life before. I wonder, did I introduce them? Because I pinched a bit of weed from the tanks at school, and they had hydra in them? I’ve certainly never seen any before! Hydra are like minute green blobs; the biggest the size of a pin head. At night they expand and grow like a trunk with a head like an anemone. I saw one with a bump on its side. That is how they reproduce – vegetatively by budding. Fascinating stuff! I’d love to see one under a microscope.

House and Tree Sparrows used to visit the farm, and live here all year round. Now I have not seen any for maybe ten years or more. Why they left I don’t know, unless it is because the village has more bird tables and fewer crows.

March 16th
I’m here in Dover. It is lovely. I can’t wait to explore the woods, cliffs and Downs. It is very mild but the sky is overcast.

I saw a Primrose on the bank, at the Station, just about to flower. Because of all the chalk, there are lots of snails, who need, the calcium carbonate, to make their shells. However I only found shells without any snails in.

March 19th
I spoke to Olaf, I’m so glad to hear him after such a long time GUESS WHAT! He was born in KENT and Christian was born in DOVER. What do you make of that? I started of feeling lonely and miserable, but after a good chat to Christian, I feel happy again. There are a lot of Jackdaws and Thrushes down here. Up the road there are some enormous houses with beautiful gardens, which are more like parks. I sneaked round the edges of one or two, but I thought it would be rather cheeky to walk across the lawn. There is a lovely pond just down the road with Cute Moorhens, Mallard and Mute Swans on it. Unfortunately it is Private Land.

In Templeside there are lots of Thrushes; probably because of all the snails, as the local mineral is chalk. In the woods and on the lawns clumps of lovely, little, purple, Dog Violets are flowering. I have seen a few clusters of Primroses flowering on waste ground and banks, by railways and rivers. The pale yellow flowers, with golden centres and crinkled, blunt leaves, make the Primrose a lovely plant to behold. There are lots of lambs in the fields and I think the Jackdaws may have young in their nests, (or eggs).

To my delight, I saw a Tree Creeper climbing round a trunk like a mouse, in the park. I knew it was a Tree Creeper by its curved bill and White belly. I only wish I had a decent pair of binoculars with me

I went for a lovely walk in the Abbey Park. There was a Thrush with a white strip above its eye. I wondered if it was a Redwing, and when I saw its orange-brown belly, I knew it was. It’s the first time I’ve seen one for definite. The last time I saw any was many years ago at home.

This morning is lovely, a hazy sky with blue behind. Bright sunshine and very still. In the garden there was a Bright Yellow Butterfly, a clouded Yellow, a flash of fleeting beauty. Many different kinds of Speedwell are now flowering in Kent. Each with a delicate blue flower. They vary in size shape, colour and intensity, but all are beautiful.

There are plenty of wildflowers around, Primroses, Red and White Deadnettles, many Umbelifers, Speedwells, Celandines, Dandelions, Dog’s Mercury, loads of Ivy and Butterbur.

This morning the fog was thick around the houses. Indoors it is very warm. The day has brightened but it’s still foggy, although not as thick. I’ve just spoken to Olaf again on the phone. He’s got a lovely, voice. I bet Syd’s passionate and very hunky. Christian sounds lovely as well!

Yesterday I saw a Rat crawling over the ground by a river near the college. It is the first I have seen at close quarters, for a very long time. In the evening I went to feed the swans in the park. There are four of them swimming about. Two males, jealously guarding their territories, and two juveniles. One of the male adults nearly attacked me as it pecked at a white plastic bag I was carrying. The park bench was very near the water and it was a difficult manoeuvre to escape.

The water is only about two feet deep, or looks it, very clear, with a soft muddy bottom. I love to watch the swans with necks outstretched, glide over the bottom, skimming the mud for food. You can easily see their enormous, grey, webbed feet, in the water. There feet fascinate me. I have never been so close to Mute Swans before, and it is both a pleasure and a privilege. (Besides a personal risk!).

It has been very warm, with blue clear sky, the first since I got here. There was a gentle breeze and mist over the sea. In the garden today I saw a
pair of Blue Tits, a Robin and a yellow butterfly, dancing in the sunshine. In the town, a very handsome, but enormous Herring Gull, was walking about the precinct like a lost tourist.

He was magnificent. One foot high, brilliant white head and neck, yellow bill, with a large red dot, pink legs and feet and grey back feathers. A real beauty. On Abbey Park, I don’t think I have ever seen such a large collection of coots. They are very tame and walk after you for bread. On all the other ponds I have seen Coots, and loads of Moorhens. Coots are unusual birds; they remind me of domestic hens, the stalking way they move and those beady red eyes.

March 24th
This morning I woke to a very strong, blustery wind, which blew a milk bottle over. It rolled, dropped and smashed into a hundred pieces. The sky was grey with drizzly rain. In the evening the sky became an intense blue with white cotton clouds. The sun was warm and very bright with a strong blustery wind.

March 25th
It has rained a lot today. A strong wind is blowing, with an overcast sky. It is cold and dismal. I go home in two more days, all being well.

March 26th
The sky is very cloudy, mainly grey clouds. Sometimes for a few seconds the sun shines or patches of blue sky show through. In the Yew Trees I saw a
male Chaffinch, and two female finches on the ground. They were olive green with a yellow bar on their wings. I think they may have been Greenfinches.

The Lawson’s Cypress has enormous seeds. They are very strange, like thin plate mushrooms, made of wood! I must collect some. I’m puzzled as to how they germinate. The Yew Trees have strange flowers on them. Small Creamy brown bobbles. By the river a Pussy Willow Tree was covered in yellow catkins.

In the evening about quarter to eight, I was walking through the park and I saw two Swans asleep on their nests. At first I thought they were white plastic bags.

March 29th
I am back at home; my bedroom was tided by Elizabeth. Jack + Dad picked me up. At half past six a Blackbird started singing as it came light. In a minute I am going to see Andrew. When I was by the gate a Heron almost flew overhead, then it saw me, turned in mid flight, and flew in the other direction. Later I saw it stood by the lodge and then by the reservoir. I think this is a lucky Heron.

Andrew wants us to be friends, so do I. On the lodge were two pair of Goldeneye, one male, seven Teal and four Mallard. On the reservoir was a Coot, 22 Canada Geese, several Lapwing on the bank, and Curlews flying over - echoing their shrill cries.

March 30th
It has been a very beautiful day, with deep blue sky, bright sunshine, large, grey and white clouds, and a strong blustery wind. My favourite kind of day. I caught a taxi to Green Arms Road, as I didn’t have the energy to walk. Then Cindy and I walked past Entwistle. I saw a beautiful gorse bush in bloom; I was really surprised to see it covered with golden yellow blossoms. In the plantation I saw a small flock of about six Chaffinches, mainly male.

As I walked past the water the wind was blustery and very cold, making large waves on the reservoir round a bend I went, and there, swimming together, in a sheltered inlet, were seven Tufted Duck. Three female and four male. The male Tufted had white breasts, and side flanks. Their black heads shone blue, purple and green, together, or at different times. The females were drab brown. The sexes are the same size and shape, or appear to be. They have beady, button eyes, which look to be bright yellow.

I walked down past Wayoh, where I saw a pair of Great Crested Grebes, swimming in the distance. I’m sure they can see hear you, because as soon as you look at them through your binoculars, they dive.

Continued 1984