Sunday, 11 March 2012

The March of the Toads

Although the past week has not been entirely spring-like weather-wise, last weekend being particularly unpleasant, it has warmed up a bit now and there are more and more signs of spring. The snowdrops are nearly finished - and I see them as a sign of winter coming to an end rather than spring beginning. But... there are more and more daffodils coming into bloom, the first violets showed themselves during the week and yesterday afternoon I saw the first wild primroses of the year - and quite a lot of them, too.

The birds are really getting into the swing of things as well. If I manage to get into the park early enough I hear robins, wrens, blackbirds, song thrushes and chaffinches singing as well as the calls of the green woodpecker, blue tits, great tits, long-tailed tits and greenfinches. Our resident robin was very busy the other morning, collecting nesting materials. I don't know whether it was him or her I saw, but whichever it was, it would scoop up a beakful and fly onto the wall outside the kitchen to see what I was doing (the breakfast washing up, as it happens) and show me what he/she had collected before flying off to our next-door neighbour's hedge to continue the building work. That robin in the picture is not our resident robin but that is a picture I took a couple of years ago in Falmouth.

So where do the toads come in? They come into our garden under the fence. Our bottom lawn would appear to be slap bang on their route from A to B - not that I know the whereabouts of either A or B. We only see the toads at certain times of the year and always forget just when it is that they migrate. This is the time of the year. I first realised when I found a dead one on the lawn. It had probably been killed by a cat as Fern, our springer spaniel, only ever kills rabbits. There have been several occasions recently, usually late at night, when she has been barking at something lurking beneath plants and I suspect that toads were behind the furore. My wife and I did watch one as it hopped across the lawn but we never do see very many of them.

I mentioned a few posts back that I had been watching a buzzard "making lazy circles in the sky". I watched it again on Friday, but this time its mate was there as well. I spent ages just watching the pair of them swinging about the sky mewing to each other. Wonderful.

So, I got the first of this year's vegetables in the garden yesterday afternoon - three rows of onions. Last year I forgot to buy the onion sets until too late with the result that none grew. I am hoping for better this year. (Obviously.) That done, I set to and stuck labels on 72 Message in a Bottle bottles which are wanted by a local retirement home. Message in a Bottle is a Lions Clubs initiative and if it's something you have never come across you can find details on Brighton Lions Club's web site. Follow the links through "our projects" and "service projects" to Message in a Bottle.

Then in the evening we had a friend - a fellow Lion - round for dinner. He and the Old Bat had been talking a month or so ago about tuna steaks which he said he had never eaten. The result was a dinner date with tuna steaks on the menu, accompanied by a sauce made from balsamic vinegar and crab apple jelly. It's delicious and it looks simple enough to make but don't ask me to describe how!

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