Shutting the gate after returning home with the Sunday newspaper this morning, I was treated to a virtuoso solo performance from a wren singing somewhere in the conifer in the back garden. At least, I was pretty sure it was a wren, but it was so loud—almost painfully loud—that I wondered whether it might be something else. But, sure enough, as I listened, transfixed, a tiny bird with an upturned tail flitted out from its hiding place amongst the branches and perched on the topmost twig of the tree. Pound-for-pound, wrens must be one of the loudest animals on Earth—as far as we vertebrates are concerned, at least.
Yesterday afternoon, I spend a most enjoyable hour reading the latest London Review of Books, taking in the sun on the patio. Swallows flopped into and out of view, ducks dabbled invisibly in the still-waterlogged field behind the wall, and a curlew even graced me with its presence.
I can think of worse ways to spend an hour.
I spent a few hours at Burton Marshes yesterday afternoon. I sat in the car for a while, then walked along the track as far as Denhall Quay next to the Harp Inn.
Denhall Quay on the Dee Marshes.
It was a lovely, breezy day. There were loads of little egrets around, quite a few house martins and swallows, the usual hard-to-identify ducks, a kestrel, some coots, and several grey herons.
A moodily under-exposed grey heron.
I’ve always loved Burton Marshes. They’re effectively man-made, exploited by farmers and the military, yet they feel utterly wild and remote. And, most important of all, you tend not to bump into too many other people there.
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The first swallow of the summer, tumbling over the back field first thing yesterday morning as I opened the gate. Only three days later than last year, despite this dreadful spring. If previous years are anything to go by—although why should they be, these days?—it will be a couple of weeks yet before they’re back in great numbers. Which I guess is why one of them doesn’t make a summer. It’s good to have them back, though.
The afternoon was glorious, with a strong, warm breeze, so I headed up to the Moor. Unusually, I didn’t spot a single red grouse, although the meadow pipits were back in decent numbers, and there was a lone skylark belting it out high above me for all he was worth.
Stoodley Pike Monument from the Moor
The wheatears will be back soon, I reckon.
Dad recently resurrected his old bird feeders. Mum would have been delighted: she took her bird-feeding very seriously.
Some snaps taken at Dad’s feeder yesterday evening:
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It’s finally starting to feel just a little bit springy.
Last Friday, I took a circular walk down Burlees Lane, through the woods, up the hill, and back home along Height Road.
A view from my walk on Friday.
A hormone-fuelled green woodpecker screeched incessantly (but, unfortunately, invisibly) from the small copse at the end of the lane. I could hear him for almost the entire walk. I spooked a snipe from the field at the side of the wood. Then, as I climbed out of the wood, I turned round to take in the view, and spotted a distant white flash: I’m 95% sure it was my first wheatear of the year. That’s a big deal for me.
Yesterday, I glanced out of our dining room window to see three siskins and a large collection of long-tailed tits—comparative rarities in this neck of the moors—feeding on our bird table. The local dunnocks were also being extremely frisky.
Famous last words, I know, but I think we might finally have broken the back of this incessant winter. Having said that, there were still several redwings perched in our neighbour’s oak on Friday evening!
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I can’t remember seeing the Dee Marshes in snow before. They had a somewhat Siberian air to them.
The birds were keeping their heads low. I can’t say I blamed them. I was eventually rewarded with a (very distant) view of a short-eared owl on the hunt. It was the long, flappy wings that gave it away. Other than that, I only spotted a few gulls and a couple of grey herons. I’m guessing there were also little egrets about, but they will have been uncharacteristically camouflaged.
Grey heron, Burton Marshes
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At 11:02 GMT last Wednesday, the apparent path of the sun across the sky passed directly above the equator, heading north.
Spring is officially here.
Hebden Bridge yesterday.
I want my money back!
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