Country Corner

Yellowhammers, little songbirds
Yellowhammers, little songbirds

Like many songbirds, the bright as a button Yellowhammer forms flocks in winter.

Looking like a gang of wild canaries, they gather wherever grain is spilled.

Mind you they are proper country birds, so there is no good trying to attract them to urban gardens.

These ones were part of a flock which spent some weeks hanging around the wooden ‘bickers’ used to provide supplementary winter feeding to a field of sheep.

What a bonny and cheery sight they were, flying from the bickers to nearby gorse bushes whenever anyone came along, then back to the bickers as soon as the coast was clear.

Furthermore the gorse had started to flower even then, and the sight of bright yellow birds on bright yellow gorse is one of the countryside’s most beautiful images.

When I was a boy, as old fuddy duddies like me are prone to say, Yellowhammers bred along every hedgerow.

Along roadsides where telegraph poles punctuate the hedge line, there would be a proud male ‘yellyhammer’ or ‘yorlin’ singing his heart out from the wires every hundred yards or so.

Hidden below in a secret nest among the hawthorn’s foliage and spines his demure wife could be found sitting on her scribble patterned eggs, as any country boy could attest.

Famously the male yellowhammers’ song proclaims “A little bit of bread and no cheeeeeeeese!”

Sadly that iconic refrain is heard less often these days.

Though the yorlin is by no means rare, it has certainly lost out to mechanical hedge trimming and agricultural ‘progress’ which leaves vvery little grain in the winter fieldscape.

Of course, I would not advocate a return to trimming field hedges by hand, but why oh why must they be cut so thin as to be transparent?

I am reminded about the re-wilding of children campaign which lists things every modern child should be allowed to experience; things as simple as climbing trees or playing conkers.

Listening to and singing along to “little bit of bread and no cheeeeese” should be high on that list!

My yorlin flock is now gone, as they break up into pairs and seek out secret nesting sites in country hedges.

Will you hear one there?