The swallows arrived as expected on 26th April, chattering excitedly with their characteristic call. They inspected the barn flying at great speed through a slit at the top of the door and built a nest in the rafters. I’m hoping we haven’t disturbed them with our daily comings and goings, we will have to wait see if they decide to stay. The fuchsia hedges are alive with the sound of the birds and the blossom on the apple trees is attracting bumblebees, which is nice to see as their numbers are reducing. The hawthorn bushes dotted about the fuchsia are in bloom too and there is ozone freshness in the air that comes from living on a peninsula, surrounded by sea on three sides. The green finch is our newest arrival at the bird feeders, which are now wired to the trees, to prevent the hooded crows from pulling them down. Originally they were tied on with string, but I was astonished to find the Crows could undo knots!
We have finally planted the stone circle at the entrance to the drive. We settled on blueberry bushes and wild strawberries – as plants are so expensive I like to plant useful ones. Blueberries are great because they have pretty white bell like flowers and then the delicious berries to follow. Wild strawberries are tiny but full of flavour. In the centre of the bed we planted a wild cherry tree, that our guests left for us. In order to increase the number of trees we plant each year we are giving our guests a young tree in a pot to take home with them. For visitors from abroad that are unable to take the sapling with them we plant the trees here at Ballymacrown. The trees include wild cherry, hawthorn, crab apple and silver birch, which were chosen for their beauty and the range of birds and insects they support.
On a spring walk down to Loch Ine recently, I spotted a seal. Sometimes they can be seen surfing in through the narrow entrance from the sea to the Loch known as the Rapids. At high tide water enters the Loch. If you time it right its amazing to see the direction of the flow stall and then suddenly turn, with water flowing out of the Loch to sea like a plug pulled from the bath. It always feels special to see a seal in Loch Ine, up close they look at you like a Labrador would and I’ve even had a seal wave back to me.
Our very sad news is that we lost our ducks to foxes this month. May is when the fox cubs are born and they much less cautious, even taking a duck during the day when we were in. The ducks had had a whole year of freedom, wandering about our acre as they pleased. At dusk they put themselves to bed in their duck house and we locked them in each night. Within 4 days we had lost all our ducks, despite our best efforts to round them up earlier in the day. Still it is nature’s way. Keeping animals is always a balance between giving them enough freedom to have a full life and them being safe. I know our ducks had a wonderful life and a year is much longer than a farmed duck would ever have lived. We miss them terribly; each one had their own character. Ducks are such lovely natured animals. They are sociable and apart from occasional squabbles don’t seem to have the pecking order that chickens exhibit. We will keep ducks again, but we will try to get the balance between freedom and safety right next time.