Saturday, 13 December 2014

an unexpected visitor

It is cold outside, and I've managed to sprain my right wrist.  I feel an absolute idiot to have done that, given how self-righteous I normally am about the importance of not over-doing things, switching between jobs, avoiding lifting anything too heavy or cumbersome but finding another way to shift it and so on and so forth.  It happened after spending last Wednesday cutting the grass on the daffodil bank (with shears) and raking up and picking out oak leaves.  I didn't think I'd done that much work with the shears in aggregate, since the days are only short and I was busy collecting leaves as well, but by the evening my forearm felt ominously tender and my wrist gave a warning twinge as I tried to plug the projector extension cable into a trailing socket that felt unexpectedly stiff.  The next morning confirmed the bad news, soreness from my wrist to below the elbow in a diagonal line from the fleshy base of my thumb to my outer arm.  I've overdone it, sprained it, nothing to be done now but hold off activities that require any sort of grip or pressure until it feels better.  Oh bother, damn, fiddlesticks, ruddy hell and all the rest of it.

At least there are wrist-easy jobs to be doing inside.  I sorted through assorted boxes of old seed packets, noting regretfully how the free offers with magazines repeat themselves.  There is a limit to how many packets of Verbena bonariensis one needs, especially if you've already got it in the garden.  Last year I offered unwanted varieties to my colleagues at work, in the faint hope they might come in useful for a school garden or similar project, but there were few takers.  This time round things I know I am never going to sow because I wouldn't want the end result went in the bin, together with anything with a sow-by date of earlier than 2014, apart from poppies and foxgloves whose tiny seeds can last for years, which is how they can lurk unseen then pop up when the soil is disturbed, if a tree falls in a wood, say, or on a battlefield. I also kept some unusual Nicotiana I bought at a flower show and never got round to sowing, in the hope that their equally small seeds might likewise be long lived.

I went out just before lunch to feed the hens, and was startled by a large, dark coloured bird with a white flash rising from the edge of the wood, a skinned rabbit clasped in its feet, jingling like a morris dancer.  It had to be an escaped trained hawk with bells on its jesses.  It perched in a tree, then dropped down out of sight.  I was utterly taken aback, and then worried about it.  It was not about to starve to death given that it was demonstrably capable of catching its own food, but I didn't think it ought to be wandering about in the woods indefinitely.  Its harness might get caught in a tree, and I didn't know how it would fare in the cold nights.  But where do you report a stray hawk?

I tried the local animal rescue centre.  They probably wouldn't want to try and catch it themselves, but I reasoned they might have a phone number for someone who would.  The boss was out, but the person I spoke to in the meantime suggested I call Stonham Barns where there is a bird of prey centre.  If you Google Stonham Barns you get details of a restaurant and shopping experience, but I worked out after a while that what I wanted was the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary, so I rang them.  After listening to a recorded message about what to do if I found an injured bird of prey I managed to speak to a real person, who gave me the phone number of a Colchester based hawk display team. The search was closing in.  I rang the Colchester Bird of Prey Centre, who hadn't lost a hawk but did know the drill for reporting one.  It turns out there is a national register, and they said they would ring that at once to log details of my sighting, and call me tomorrow if they hadn't managed to track down the owner with a view to coming out to look for it themselves if there was any evidence it was still around.  She said that if it was hunting successfully it might stay in the area, but there was no point in trying to lure it to her when it had just had a rabbit, as it wouldn't be interested.

Since lunchtime I haven't heard any more jingling from the wood, so who knows where the hawk is? Perhaps it has been having a sit down and digest after its rabbit.  Perhaps it has moved on.  I hope somebody finds it before it comes to a sticky end.  I probably have an overly romantic view of hawks after reading TH White at an impressionable age, but I don't like to think of the creature dangling upside down from a tree by its jesses.

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