Black day for garden blackbirds

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It’s been a week of ups and downs both weather-wise and personally. We’ve had the full gamut of seasonal and unseasonal weather thrown at us as spring tries frantically to leave winter behind.

The first of my “downs” was at the end of last week.

After years of non-occupancy, my one and only open-fronted nest box attracted a blackbird, which had, unseen by me, managed to build a nest inside and start laying eggs. Laying an egg a day until Friday, the female began incubating her clutch of four. We could see her from the kitchen window, popping out of the nest for a quick feed of sultanas and mealworms, before returning to her incubation duties.

Meanwhile, a pair of carrion crows, were occasionally seen cruising overhead, doing a reccy of the area. They must have spotted the nest and moved in while she was out feeding, eating the whole clutch in one quick visit, while no-one was looking.

That’s nature in the raw, but still hard to swallow.

Next day, to lift my spirits, with new permit just purchased, I set out for the river for my first cast of the season. It was bitterly cold when I arrived at my favourite spot and proceeded to assemble my rod and bait my hook. Filled with anticipation and excitement, I waded confidently out to a likely spot where I imagined the trout would be teeming.

One step in and I immediately felt an icy blast hitting my left foot. Within seconds, it felt like the Ettrick was being diverted into my wellie. It had sprung a huge leak and was rapidly filling with freezing water. Before I had even had a cast I had to abort and walk home, squelching loudly as I went, with the feeling gone completely in my left foot.

I had a better day on Sunday, with a lovely walk round Selkirk’s Haining Estate. It was still bitterly cold, but the sun shone and the birds were singing. Chiffchaffs were everywhere and I heard my first blackcaps and willow warblers, which have recently arrived from their African wintering grounds.

What a lovely spot it is for a walk, especially at this time of year with everything bursting into life. The woodland around the loch was resplendent with clumps of lovely lemon-yellow primroses and dark blue dog violets were pushing through the leaf litter.

By the water’s edge clumps of golden marsh marigolds brought their own sunshine to the boggy ground as several tufted ducks dived for food in the background. Yes, things were definitely getting better!