Early this morning, at just before 6.0am, a dunnock softly ushered in the dawn chorus. It’s sweet song was repeated to wake everyone and announce that a new day had begun and they were still about guarding their territory. Then the robin joined in and the blackbird in with it’s full-throated song, trills and whistles.
As the light strengthened and brightened, the chorus stopped as the birds went off to feed. Then they started up again and last to join were the resident ring-collar doves cooing away in the lower registers.
Another day of feeding, mating, strutting and displaying as the temperature rises and the daylight increases.
I remember standing on the roof of a house on the edge of the desert in Jordan many years ago while the sun set as the full moon rose.
Today I saw a very different sunset and rising moon here in England at the end of a blustery, cold, spring day.
The jackdaws sailed over the trees, expertly using the strong wind to glide, bank, dip and drop. The small birds use the nearby hedge and trees to shelter and then alight on the feeders. They scatter and then return until there was a swift shadow passing rapidly over the garden which swooped into the edge of the tree where the small birds gather. The sparrow hawk had returned. There was a deathly silence for quite a time until they gradually gained confidence and returned to chatter and feed.
By the end of the day the wind had completely dropped, the clouds disappeared and there was a beautiful, clear sunset.
After a soft, warm, gentle start to the month of March, the winter has returned. The birds were starting to pair off and claim their territories when a bitter wind blew up and after strong rain, the snow and sleet began. Fortunately, it didn’t lie but the cold wind meant that the bird feeders were being queued at for access and even the unpopular round peanut feeder had 3 bluetits hungrily nibbling the peanuts.
By the time I had returned from a short shopping trip we had encountered a large flock of 50 redwings in the fields along the lane and then perching in an ash tree. There were also a pair of buzzards circling low over the field, quartering the valley in a hunt for prey. As we parked, there was a female greater spotted woodpecker on the bottom peanut feeder and the sunflower seed feeder was already three quarters empty. The gold finches had returned as well as blue tits, great tits, green finches, chaffinches, sparrows and robins. There was also a moorhen down on the grass which has come quite a way from the nearest water to look for food. Often there are 3 of them and last year my neighbour had a duck nesting in a shrub on their wall. After 2 weeks there were 12 ducklings being led in a line down to the nearest pond.
Now the sun is out but the wind is still bitter and very strong. We still have a long way to go before the end of March and the official start of spring. Sadly, the daffodils which are just coming into flower are being battered by the strong, bitter wind. March, in like a lion, but hopefully out like a lamb. Which brings me on to the lambing season, just starting here……
We are very fortunate in that we live in rural Herefordshire which as a county has treasured and preserved its hedgerows. Some of the hedgerows are as wide as the road itself which provides a massive benefit to wildlife. As other parts of the country were grubbing up the hedges to make huge fields as in East Anglia, or for farmers to benefit from subsidies for grubbing them up, the small traditional farmers in this county were well established in the nurturing and maintenance of these wildlife treasure troves.
They are one of the first things you notice as you enter this quiet, rural county. Small farms are still doing well and in some instances expanding. As other parts of the country are now discovering, if you look after your hedgerows, the wildlife has a head start in looking after itself.
In my photograph, there is a female sparrow hawk sitting on the top of one of these wide hedges in the garden. It sat there for 20 minutes, looking around and then preening itself. As it sat there, the smaller birds became more and more adventurous until in the blink of an eye it flashed into action and pounced on a small bird, wide tail fanned out to act like a rudder. I didn’t see the actual kill as it had sunk down to the ground and then glided off very low.