Country diary 1921: the hedger’s work reveals last spring's nests

17 February 1921 One was a chaffinch’s set well up in the arm of a blackthorn, the foundation laid cunningly in a niche

Adult male chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) perched on a hedge, Todwick, South Yorkshire.
Adult male chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) perched on a hedge, Todwick, South Yorkshire. Photograph: Susan & Allan Parker/Alamy
Adult male chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) perched on a hedge, Todwick, South Yorkshire. Photograph: Susan & Allan Parker/Alamy

Last modified on Mon 15 Feb 2021 01.36 EST

The hedger has finished his work before nesting days; his heavy steel bill cleared out spaces here and there where a nest of last spring showed almost as sound as when it was built. One was a chaffinch’s set well up in the arm of a blackthorn that had not been cut back for some years. The foundation was laid cunningly in a niche where the crook of other branches struck out from the arm, the ground floor was the shape of an old basin, the upper part more enclosed, as though the basin were inverted and left with an open top, while a few pieces of lichen from some near tree or wall still held to the outer part – it was a rare and sweet home.

Besides this one a few other nests came to light; many birds fortunately, like the skylark, build on or near the ground, and some in that way escape the marauder. A goldfinch was among some early groundsel in a warm corner of the big vegetable farm this morning; not far away on rising ground there is much stumpy gorse which, if one knew bird signs, should in another month or so be marked “Danger.”

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