I’ve been wrong before, just once in 1995, but last nights declaration that we were clear of frosts proved short lived. Who’d have thought that after eighteen degree heat on Sunday I’d be scraping ice off the car this morning. Despite this blip however I feel confident in declaring spring officially upon us if the hive of activity witnessed across the weekend is anything to go by. We spent both days in the garden building a new pond (details to follow in a future post) but were anything but alone. At least six Small Tortoiseshell butterflies were spotted on the wing, a pair of Blue Tits were investigating one of our nest boxes, there’s a Frog for the first time ever in our current small pond, Jackdaws are re-establishing their territories amongst the chimney pots of our neighbours and the volume of bird song seemed almost deafening after the quietness of winter. You couldn’t help but feel reinvigorated by it all though I’m certainly suffering now from having exercised muscles that had been lying dormant for the best part of five months.
This evenings sunset as seen from Gopa Hill
It may just be me but it feels as if spring has arrived all at once this year though in truth that’s probably just a warped perception born of the extreme weather across recent weeks. There were however early signs of approaching change last Saturday during an afternoon visit to Cosmeston Lakes where we eschewed our normal route and ended up in Cogan Wood. Away from the masses we paused to watch a couple of Great Tits feeding avidly along ivy clad branches and it wasn’t long before other species started turning up as well. Pick of the bunch has to be this very tame Coal Tit, always a personal favourite, who allowed for some rather nice photographs to be taken.
The Great Tits themselves proved slightly more difficult to capture as they kept popping in and out of deep shadow, though this was soon resolved through the offering of some bread.
Higher up in the canopy an unusual call alerted me just in time to witness a Nuthatch and Blue Tit emerging from a hole in the tree locked in combat. Each had the other firmly clasped by the feet and like that they fell quickly to the ground. Fortunately the impact was not severe but for several moments it seemed that neither was willing to let go as the scuffle continued. This went on for at least a minute until eventually the Nuthatch looked to have gained an advantage and sent the Blue Tit packing. Bruised but certainly not beaten it (and at least one companion) continued to try their luck at what must be a prime piece of real estate, but each time they were aggressively rebuked by either the original Nuthatch or its mate. Mission accomplished there was nothing for it but to strike a victory pose.
Nearby a trio of Squirrels were providing comic relief. They may not be to everyone’s taste but I’ve always been a fan ever since my school days where I got to enjoy their cavorting each afternoon on the walk home. Considering this it’s surprising that I’ve got very few photos of the species so an opportunity to spend time with this very tame individual was not to be missed.
A few meters away and another couple of Squirrels were engaged in an energetic game of chase rendering them seemingly oblivious to our presence. As we stood still they very nearly ran right across our feet which couldn’t fail to raise a smile. Another few loops around a tree and it was time for some food which appeared to be hidden under a ground covering of ivy. Such was its depth that the only way for the Squirrel to move forward was by a series of hops. Smiles quickly turned into laughs.
Out on the water birds are starting to pair up with the Coots behaviour in particular noticeably changed. Certain individuals, probably the males, have become increasingly testy whilst this pair were involved in some intimate grooming.
Spring is also seeing the return of summer plumaged Black-headed Gulls. Having spent the last few months with almost plain white heads it’s a nice change.
All of these observations mean that our first migrants can’t be far away with other parts of the UK already reporting sightings of Wheatear. Our little corner of the world is always a bit behind the curve but it means that my currently stalled Patchwork Challenge list will be on the move again soon. I can’t wait.