Ear To The Ground Column: Hoping for a spot of rain

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The first good, hot spell of the summer and after three days the thunder is rippling in the distance.

There looks to be some rain far to the south. Hope it comes this way; it will be good for the gardens and might fill the water butts - they’re all half empty. I encourage the other waterers here to use some from each, to maximise the catch if we only get a sharp shower.
A female blackbird is again collecting mud from a tub in which I have some spare water lilies waiting to be used somewhere.
She will use it to strengthen her nest. She must have had another failed nesting attempt.
If she had had a successful brood, she would have used the same nest again. That’s why I never let anyone cut hedges hard in the growing season. The birds can be nesting right through the season. Finches like chaffinches, goldfinches and greenfinches nest right through. Chaffinches seem to love old honeysuckle arches over gates; I’ve often found their nests there. They take advantage of our presence to nest because we keep the magpies away. Gardens with active dogs have many nests if the shrubs and hedges are right.
The dogs keep the cats away. Gardens with young cats rarely have any. My picture is of a Song Thrush’s nest in my beech hedge.
It’s fine for the nests if the tips of soft growth are trimmed, just to keep the hedges tidy, as long as the nests are not exposed, and the other great advantage is the trimmings can be composted along with other green stuff. Some people have the idea that poisonous plants shouldn’t be put in the compost. That’s wrong, but I wouldn’t compost conifer trimmings; these can be used for a beautiful soft and aromatic path surface in an out-of-the-way part of the garden.
A friend reports an aggressive grouse on the Calder/Aire Link path above Crimsworth Dean. It’s attacking anyone walking or cycling along there. He and someone else he knows have actually been struck by the angry bird! It must have a nest or mate or a brood nearby.
He also reports redpolls near the Bridestones. There must be a lot around, as I have also seen some on Norland Moor in May, including a male with red head and pink breast-patches and rump, but he was perhaps sick or injured, as I could handle him. I let him hop off into the heather hopefully to recover.
Simon Zonenblick of Sowerby Bridge writes well using nature for inspiration. He invented the “Octolune”; a poem with only eight lines, and the first word of the first line must be “Moon”.
For those who want to join a group and do something great for Nature there are at least eight that I know of in Calderdale:
The UCWN meets in a Todmorden Pub on the first Monday evening of the month at 7.30pm. Its members aim to record and protect local wildlife sites and species. For further information phone 01706 812480 or 816698.