Natural solace

I keep hearing that we are confined to our homes but that is a very urban perspective on social isolation. For those of us who have countryside on our doorsteps we are much better off.

Yesterday I walked the five paces from my front door to the car, drove about three miles and went for a walk. It was good to be out in the fresh air. There was nobody else out walking at this quiet local gravel pit but if there had been, we could easily have kept a safe distance apart.

It was warm enough for there to be plenty of insects on the wing and I was hoping to see two species of bird in particular; Chiffchaff and Sand Martin. Both species are migrants which visit us in the Spring, and both are two of the earliest of our migrant birds to return to us in Spring.

But it was simply nice to be outside and having a walk.

It wasn’t a sunny day but the birdsong (as well as those insects, including quite a lot of bumblebees) showed that it was Spring. I heard singing Great Tits, Dunnocks, Robins, Chaffinches, Greenfinches and Wrens.

I saw a Chiffchaff before hearing one. A small greenish warbler was fluttering in a bush, catching insects – that’s why it has come back to east Northants from its wintering grounds in southern Europe or North Africa, our insect-eating season is building up!

A few Chiffchaffs winter in the UK, I see them occasionally along the Nene Valley wetlands, but now is the time when I would expect to hear returning migrants. A few have been heard by other birders locally already.

And a few minutes later the almost unmistakable sound of a singing Chiffchaff was cutting through the air. I’ll write separately about this bird’s song, but the point here is that it is Spring! I’ve heard my first singing Chiffchaff and soon they will be singing in woods and hedges everywhere as Spring uncoils around us.

I wasn’t confined to my house – I was hearing a Chiffchaff sing.

But no Sand Martins – maybe next time – they will be with us any time now.


14 Replies to “Natural solace”

  1. I’m not too far away from you mark and very near to Rutland Water maybe see you sometime, from a distance of course, on the nature reserve. Keep up the good work with the blogs xx Julie

  2. Not managed either yet and although Chiffchaff has been reported relatively locally they often seem quite late here. I did see a Tree Bumblebee last week.

    1. At 0848 a Chiffchaff flitted through the nearest Alder to my office window I hope to hear it later. SPRING!

  3. Chiffchaff, sand martin, green sandpiper passing through; also comma and small tortoiseshell all at Chelwood in Somerset – only a couple of miles from Pensford Mark.

    1. Ken – indeed. As a boy, I used to attend Chelwood church where there were some interesting stained glass windows. thank you for your first comment here.

  4. Heard my first Chiffchaff of the year yesterday whilst doing our last task at a local nature reserve. Normally I hear the first one near the willow tree outside our back garden A real harbinger of Spring for me.

  5. It’s interesting, Mark, that you heard both Greenfinch and Chaffinch song. Greenfinches here, compared to previous years, are singing extraordinarily well but Chaffinch song is almost absent to date. Solace on the one hand, worrying on the other. Is this disparity occurring elsewhere?

    1. Murray Greenfinches around our small holding here in Wales have been almost totally absent with single birds seen on two early January days. Chaffinches on the other hand are one of our commonest birds and are starting to sing all over the place, whilst others ( the same?) crowd the bird feeders with hordes of siskins.

  6. Mark, we have Chiffchaffs beginning to appear in numbers down here in Sussex, soon to become a flood, as other migrants begin to pass through too.
    Although there are increasingly quite high numbers of Chiffchaffs overwintering around water-treatment works and the like, it’s always a thrill to find some recently arrived genuine migrant Chiffchaffs on the coast at this time of year, they’re almost always the first spring migrants to become apparent, & it’s good to enjoy them afresh every spring before they become almost ubiquitous later in the year.
    In previous years I’ve watched newly arrived Chiffchaffs along the coastline in Sussex, seems a bit incongruous at first, but they happily join with Wheatears fly-catching from groynes on the beach. It’s always special & uplifting to see migration in action, makes you realise we’re just one small cog, & life goes on oblivious to our human concerns.
    Very much enjoying your highly evocative pieces on birdsong recently, it’s good to be reminded of the beauty of the everyday natural world in these challenging times.

    1. Colin – thank for your first comment here. Thank you very much for your words and your observations.

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