22nd May 2013 – Bull Finches

The front lawn has been left to grow wild for the sake of the bulbs and is now dotted with the downy spheres of dandelion seed heads. Gold finches are the usual birds seen harvesting the tiny umbrella seeds, but for a week now a pair of bull finches have been visiting to feed. The cock bird is exquisite. He sits on the old green house frame (still lying were it blew two months back) and stretching up to the towering clocks, reveals fully the warm salmon pink of his breast. My spirits leap whenever I notice the pair and I often watch transfixed for many minutes until they are gone, white rumps bobbing into the distance.

Dandelion Clock


When I was a boy bull finches were still considered vermin, thanks to their  habit of de-budding fruit trees and the little creatures were  hunted with zeal on the Boxing Day shoot. The call would go up ‘bull finch’ and the heavily armed beating line would erupt simultaneously, like the broad side from a man of war, a pound or two of lead sent to destroy the daintiest of prey. Despite the barrages, few actually fell, for there are many finch sized holes in a shotgun pattern and I never recall more than two or three amongst the day’s bag, laid out with care before the old farm house.

May wears on but where’s the may? Hawthorn is still not fully out and it will come a full month later than usual. Yesterday evening the unmistakably heavy thud of a may-bug striking the window pane spoke of a mild night to come and I was glad of it, having recently planted out all my bean plants.

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