Everywhere on the patch was loud with birdsong at first light this morning. we had heavy rain and strong winds last evening and long into the night, easing off at last in the early hours for a damp dawn. As always, the robin that holds a territory in our back garden was the first to start singing, before any hint of sunrise. The song thrush was the next to join in, with the wrens, and as I shut the front door I paused and smiled. The blackbirds had started singing. I had heard one blackbird some weeks ago but it must have been a test run as it had been quiet since. This morning however, rich fluted notes swelled in the air from a number of birds, more melodic than the other thrushes and deeper, stronger than the robin.
This is the fourth time this week I have headed out onto the patch early in the morning. I don't know about you, but I'm certainly not a morning person, however the early part of the day is the ideal time to see most wildlife, and the peace and beauty of the morning really does make it worth getting out of bed. Knowing this, and having spent far too much time sat in front of the computer recently, I decided to make an effort to fit in an early morning walk most days; home in time for breakfast.
Monday. The morning welcomed me with a cold, grey embrace. The canada geese on South Pond had woken up and were already engaged in the honking and displaying that has become their daily activity since the milder weather arrived over the weekend.
A single redwing was feeding on the ground with a song thrush, between the still dormant trees at the community orchard along Jubilee Path.
Tuesday. Another grey day. No redwing today along Jubilee Path, it wont be long before the winter migrants head back to their breeding grounds.
Walking along the lower path of St Ann's Hill, I stopped to sniff. The slightly damp air held a scent that reminded me of acorns and earth and green shoots; it could only be the smell of the seeds and nuts beneath the insulating leaves swelling with the moisture and breaking their tough skins, sending out roots that always follow gravity downwards and shoots that always seek the light above.
A ghostly apparition floats over the Cowdray flood meadows, black eyes in a pale face watch my progress along the causeway and turn away unblinking, gliding silently, barely causing the rushes to shiver. A barn owl, the first I have seen here for 8 years.
Thursday. The barn owl was there again, quartering the rushes, spooking snipe that darted and zigzaged and dropped again into cover. The owl swallows its dinner whole; a rodent of some sort, and takes flight again flapping languidly then in a moment, turns on a wing tip, on a change of mind, and heads determinedly out of sight and to roost.
A grey wagtail bobs on the bridge wall.
A water rail appears between a clump of reeds, pausing for a moment as if blinking in the daylight, and dashes back into obscurity.
Saturday. Blackbird song marked another step towards spring. The morning was lighter than the start of the week, and water levels higher, overnight rain congregating in the rivers, filled with mud pigments, to rush and race and roar. As I reached the flood meadows a thick blanket of fog was hooked on low hanging branches and stretched across the fields from tree-line to tree-line. The owl was hunting. Half a dozen snipe darted towards the sky, lead by extended beaks and powered by flickering wings. The blind empty windows of Cowdray Ruins were like bright eyes in the shadowed walls, only feral pigeons interrupting their gaze.