OK, so maybe it is obvious to most people that it is now spring, but some of us have our own signs that the season has changed (for me Winter comes with the arrival of goosanders). So, the clocks have gone forward, the daffodils are out and, yesterday, so was the sun, and it was warm, but to me, the telltale sign of spring occurred this morning on my way to work. It was the sound of a chiffchaff calling. I stopped to listen and make sure, but there really is no mistaking the call of a chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita).
According to the Bird Guides website which has pictures and more information about the chiffchaff, the best way to distinguish this little brown job from the equally small and brown Willow Warbler is by its black legs. In my experience I rarely see one before I have heard it and the call is enough to distinguish it from anything else.
I have seen them in Winter, but they usually return to nest in Spring, the ones landing in these shores are thought to have wintered in southern Europe and Africa. So, the next time you are out and about listen for the call of one of the earlier and most vociferous migrants to these shores.
I have anxiously been listening out for the sounds of Spring – the birds are singing, the expected flowers are starting to show up in various places and it is therefore with some anticipation that I have been listening out every morning for the sounds of frogs singing in the pond.
Other people had seen frog spawn in their ponds weeks ago, I was beginning to wonder if it was the fact that I had a north facing garden or whether we had upset the frogs by renovating their home last Summer. We spotted our first frogs last week, and this morning we saw frogspawn. See the photoevidence – please accept my apologies for the poor quality.
Now the worry starts – we have had the pond for a few years now, but apart from some tadpoles from some imported spawn we have not had any tadpoles yet. The frost has usually killed it all off in the past, but we are hoping that the fact that we have deepened the pond and the spawn is near the bottom may give them a chance this year. Fingers crossed!
I have become a huge fan of podcasts in the last few months, one of which I subscribe to being the BBC’s best of Natural History Radio. The last two weeks have been ‘World on the Move’, a series looking at the migration of species around the world.
Some of the highlights have included a visit to Gambia to look for the warblers that will be returning to the UK to breed in the Summer – it certainly puts a different slant on things to hear about ‘African’ rather than ‘British’ Chiffchaffs and Whitethroats. Apparently the Housemartins already appear to be on the move north. We are also asked to look out for Painted Lady butterflies and report in our first sightings of them. These amazing creatures migrate over from Africa – 1000 miles; there are networks of people looking for them all the way from Spain through Europe, they have even managed to reach Sweden in the past! Not bad for such a fragile-looking creature. However, one of the hardiest creatures is possibly the Alaskan Bar-Tailed Godwit. One of these was tagged and flew non-stop from Alaska to New Zealand, 11,700 kilometres in 8 days – not surprisingly she now holds the record for the longest non-stop flight. I think you have to agree that this is pretty amazing.
Should you want to find out more there is a lot of interesting information on the BBC website – http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/worldonthemove
I decided that I would go for a spot of birdwatching today at the Country Park, although the black clouds and horizontal rain this morning did make me think twice.
However, the sun emerged in the afternoon, so I bade farewell to my long suffering beloved and set off with my ‘scope slung over my shoulder and headed east (on foot of course). Once again there seemed an absence of small birds at the park and very little birdsong to be heard above the roaring wind.
I edged out onto the dam clutching my ‘scope in the hope that we would anchor each other against the wind. The first thing that I noticed was the large number of wigeon around the edge of the water. The second, and slightly disappointing thing, was that the golden plovers seem to have moved on.
I moved down the dam to look at some of the birds further along and have subsequently decided that Winter has come early this year. I usually decide that Winter has arrived when the goosanders make it to the reservoir, last year this was around Christmas. Well, as you may have guessed they are here already, and in greater numbers, I counted 24 today, twice the number that I have seen before.
Time to get the thermals out?
This may seem a bit obvious, but I think that Spring has definitely arrived now. The birds are singing as well as fighting (it is the only time that I have seen a pair of blue tits working together to drive the greenfinches off the seed feeder – and the greenfinches were definitely afraid, very afraid), the blackthorn is flowering and the hawthorn is coming into leaf. However, as if to confirm my suspicions I saw butterflies along the old railway track. First of all a bright yellow Brimstone fluttered past, then I saw a Comma sat by the path, and some other Brimstones, and shortly later a Peacock butterfly, and another Brimstone butterfly. Here are some photos that I prepared earlier, well in my garden last year: