Country Diary: Regoice to hear increased sound of bird song

And the spring arose on the garden fair,

Like the spirit of love felt everywhere;

And each flower and herb on earth’s dark breast,

Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.

Shelley (1820)

With Valentine’s Day well behind us, we rejoice to hear increased volumes of bird song, as they aim to attract a mate and commence nest-building.

Gardens are brimming with snowdrops; aconites; budding daffodils; crocuses and colourful pansies and primulas.

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On February 6, amongst a carpet of glossy, heart-shaped leaves of celandines, I spotted one single, golden star-like bloom. In early spring, celandines will soon spangle the dreary verges and woodlands with colour.

Whilst briefly parked in the local cemetery, Michael was surprised to view a stag roe deer, grazing in the corner near woodland, only about five metres away.

Recently, alongside the Reasty Road from Suffield, we observed a large flock of birds swirling down in waves before alighting in a field opposite the plantation. Halting, we viewed these handsome birds for quite a while. Their flapping, broad-winged flight readily identified them as lapwings, or green plovers. The ‘peewit’ is an excellent description of its call. The lapwing is almost always in flocks, and there must have been about 200.

Numbers have collapsed in recent years, so it was rewarding to witness the scene. Look for its wispy black crest – quite unique in Britain. From afar it looks black and white, but is dark green above, or bronze green. Winter adults have a white chin and throat, and a black breastband.

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In southern Britain, territories are taken up in late February and March, but into April further north.

Following the lapwings, descended flocks of starlings settling for a last minute feed on their way to roost to help them through the cold, winter night. When probing for food with open bill, it can see what it’s eating. It loves leatherjackets and ants, plus seeds, berries and caterpillars.

Returning to Seamer Mere, as friend Martin had seen seven cormorants and two goosanders there, we did a recount and viewed four on an island and one in flight. We were only just in time to spot a goosander before it dived for fish. We usually discover a pair there in winter. It’s the largest of the three sawbills seen in Britain, and is easily confused with red-breasted merganser. The goosander has a preference for inland fresh water. It has a long, low appearance in the water, and the male is unmistakable with black plumage above pinkish white below. It dives well, and for some distance too. We searched, but failed to have a second viewing, alas! Better luck next time perhaps?

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