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Home Super Agents – slipping towards spring

The Home Super Agents thoroughly enjoyed the Awards Ceremony in London and have proudly returned inspired to do more. We are all part of an international group which provides caring and supportive services to families, children and young people and special agents Sian and Amber are very excited as they have been asked to give a presentation about Roots & Shoots their work to the founder and ‘chief executive’ of Core Assets. They both want to carry their work forward by becoming Young Ambassadors within Core Assets and send out more shoots. Agent Amber will write about this in her blog.

The weather has sent all sorts of challenges to us and to the wildlife this over 2012 and into 2013. Extended periods of extreme wet with flooding, very cold with snow and then back to flooding.

The birds have used the feeders all year and during this cold snap more so than ever. Regular visitors to Agent Diamond’s garden have included a nuthatch, black cap, long tailed tits , mistle thrush as well as the usual other tits, blackbirds, robin, little jenny wren and starlings. As well as filling the feeders with seed, nuts and fatballs Agent Diamond has also made sure that the ground feeders can get food too including apples. The importance of leaving the berries and seed heads on the trees and plants can be clearly seen as the birds feed on them as well and are also able to shelter amongst the unpruned branches and bushes.

Agent Amber reports that little flocks of gold finches are also regular visitors to hers. She also feeds the birds dried meal worms which the robin particularly likes. During the snowy frozen weather Agent Amber also said that a local fox was a regular visitor looking for scraps to eat. During the earlier wet spells Agent Diamond encountered a small hedgehog ambling up a busy street in Tiverton during the day. Stopping her car, safely, and the traffic, she quickly scooped one amazed hedgehog and took it to the local hedgehog hospital. A wise choice as the young hedgehog was under weight and would not have survived the winter.

A few weeks later travelling down the Devon link road, a busy duel carriage way, Agent Diamond saw what looked like a swan or a goose on the verge. Turning around at the next roundabout she returned ten miles down the link road. On passing the ‘bird’ closer observation revealed a grey cuddly toy doing a very good impersonation of a duck! However the blackbird seen cowering by the side of a busy main road was safely scooped up. It was quite perky but unable to fly as it had no flight feathers on one of its wings. Agent Diamond wrapped it in a towel and put it on the back seat. The blackbird decided it preferred to perch on the towel and keep a beady eye on Agent’s Diamond’s driving skills. Agent Diamond was working with Agent Amber and they took the blackbird to the RSPCA Wildlife Centre at Westhatch. Throughout the long journey Stumpy, as we called the bird, stayed balanced on the towel – ‘flying without wings’! Whilst there they were lucky enough to be given a guided tour behind the scenes which Agent Amber has written about in her blog.

The most comical rescue has been the escape attempt of four Indian Runner ducks and their mate, a goat! Agent Diamond was nearly home when the four ducks appeared on the verge of a busy main road. Busily they waddled purposefully across the road oblivious to the cars and lorries. Agent Diamond put on her hazard lights to slow the traffic behind and flashed the on-coming cars. The quacky quartet made it safely and Agent Diamond had to drive on as it was not safe to stop. As she did she noticed a pygmy goat wriggling through the hedge desperate not to be left out of what was clearly a big adventure. Agent Diamond turned round and went back. The dappy ducks were strutting up and down the verge wondering exactly why they had crossed the road as it was very boring on the other side and there was nowhere to go. The goat was on the opposite verge considering joining the ducks. Agent Diamond parked safely and alerted on-coming traffic to the mobile hazards. She then got the attention of the owners. The ducks decided enough was enough and started a fast waddle back across the road towards the now open gate to safety. Agent Diamond again halted the traffic and shooed them on their way. The goat saw sense as its fellow adventurers returned through the gate and dived back into the hedge and safety!

Agent Diamond relies on a log burner for heat. This requires the storage of wood for chopping and burning which this year has brought extra vigilance. Stored wood attracts hibernating wildlife as well as a lovely niche for more active wildlife. So far this year Agent Diamond has had to carefully relocate to a safe place hibernating ladybirds, spiders, woodlice and some millipedes!

No matter what the weather nature moves on and is already gearing up for spring. Buds are forming and some brave flowers can be seen (snowdrops, daffodils, cyclamens, primroses and yellow catkins hanging on the trees). Soon the purple crocuses planted by so many to highlight the continuing work to eradicate polio will add their vibrant colour to the grey of winter. The early flowers are vital to emerging nectar feeders such as bees and the humble dandelion plays an important role here. Seen by many as a weed it should be allowed to flower before removing the dying flower head. The first brave butterfly has been seen emerging into the warmth of a lovely sunny day. Likewise Agent Diamond encourages people to move away from the ‘perfect’ lawn and have clovers and daisies growing to. This changes a desert of green to an oasis for our pollinating insects and still looks really pretty. Agent Diamond will be checking her nest boxes soon as nest building has already started with many birds busy with twigs, moss and feathers. The most amusing being the starlings as they pop in and out of unused chimney pots. She saw a good idea of an old boot nailed to a tree which had provided a very desirable residence for a family of fledglings.

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