Friday, 4 July 2014

wake up call



This morning’s dawn chorus was brought to me by the local blackbirds. They’re still singing now, a few hours later; but I can also hear long-tailed tits, a goldfinch, and a woodpigeon, with occasional contributions from a blackcap. The full force of the springtime dawn chorus is now mostly spent as the birds settle down to their domestic duties; the sedge warblers who were singing all night six weeks ago, where I was moored opposite the reed beds at Sells Green, are now silent, and barely noticeable as they flit around the undergrowth hunting insects.

The local birds seem to have gone in for job sharing, too, now. For the last two days the main wake-up call was provided by the wood pigeons; for a few blessed days before them, it was song thrushes, who sang late into the evening too, their wild, flowing notes sounding almost nightingale-ish. 



Last week I was outside Semington, on a long raised stretch of the canal that overlooked a wide expanse of the Avon valley. Whitethroats were the most voluble birds along there, singing from the hawthorns and rising in song flights before dropping to a new perch; I first started hearing them at the beginning of May, and thought how Browning got it right in his Home Thoughts From Abroad:

And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat sings, and all the swallows…..

….then I moved over here to Bradford on Avon, where I’m moored next to the tithe barn, in a long reach shaded by tall ash, sycamore, and hazel upon which the nuts are already formed. It’s very popular with blackcaps, and their laconic bursts of bubbling song suit the still, hot days we’ve been having. 

I go down to the Avon and sit next to the packhorse bridge to get a signal on my mobile, while keeping a weather eye open for the local kingfisher. It usually signals its appearance with a high piping TSEEEP, and if you look up quickly enough, chances are you’ll see it zooming along with wings whirring, low, straight and fast. Twice, though, I’ve seen it hovering, like a little dumpy kestrel. And both times it was over the exact same patch of water, over by the rowing club wharf. It only did it briefly - for about three, and then for maybe ten seconds . I guess it’s a lot more expensive in energy than sitting on a branch. It can look like a dull brown bird in some lights; when it flies into a sunbeam, though, it bursts into light like a small blue meteor.