Great tits appear for their dip

Queueing up for a bath.
Queueing up for a bath.

I HAVE been having even more fun with my frying pan. It lost its non-stick so became a bird-bath. In the dry spring this year every bird in the surrounding forests has, it seems, come down for a refreshing drink and a bath.

I keep an old shandy bottle handy, filled up with tap water outside the kitchen door and twice or three times a day the shandy stream trickles yet again and bubbles down into its brook pool.

When they hear the tumbling water, the great tits appear out of the bushes and wait for their thrice-daily dip. The frying pan is only ten feet from the kitchen window so all you have to do is make a cup of tea and stand there watching swimmers swim. Wonderful time-waster: we all need one.

As you can see in my photo, a wood pigeon flopped down from his perch in the oak tree and had a wonderful bath.

A young blackbird looked on quite upset as he had to wait his turn. Like any human youngster, the blackbird hung around the pool for most of the day waiting for his friends, the rest of his siblings, when they would play ‘Look what I can do’ in the water games.

One family became very thirsty after feeding among the cone on the larch trees. These were the siskins who arrived with their five or six children every hour to drink. Watching them ,I now know where during the War the Italian Prisoners of War who worked on my father’s Norfolk Farm got the idea for the children’s toys they made for the village at Christmastime. One of these toys was a flat piece of wood shaped like a ping-pong bat.

Hinged on top were four wooden chickens which bent down to peck grain as you revolved the weighted string beneath. These bent forward very rapidly.

Just like the siskins. They appeared to be clockwork and jewelled green and yellow stripes. Another grand time-waster has been the crossbill family, with father resplendent in cardinal’s robes like somebody from the Vatican. Willow Warblers look tiny down there in the bath, but not so minute as the firecrest.

Yellowhammers, lesser whitethroats, marsh tits and dunnocks all need a daily wash as do redpolls, greenfinches, chaffinches, bullfinches and jays. Going away for the weekend once brought a queue of tongues hanging out when I returned and didn’t that make me feel guilty.

What do birds do all over the dry Downland woods where there are no streams and the ponds dry up?

Many must died in the type of weather we have had. Many too will drown in half full cattle troughs, a dreadful waste of our wildlife.