Spring has Sprung
“Spring has sprung, the grass has ris, I wonder where the birdies is?
They say the bird is on the wing,
But that’s absurd,
The wing is on the bird”
These lines are often attributed to Spike Milligan but really come from a traditional North American poem made popular by Ogden Nash, which only goes to show how the arrival of springtime is a longed-for event wherever you may live.
Here at Hadlow we are blessed with a particularly unusual environment which is superb for the watching of birds. Being on the banks of the tidal Torridge we see a mixture of sea, estuary, marshland and freshwater species which if you add into the mix the 40 acres of deciduous woodland behind us and the grassland surrounding that, means that there aren’t many habitats we don’t cover.
Since the first of January we have been jotting down every new sighting on the shopping blackboard in the larder which in itself has led to a substantial reduction in the space left for shopping! At the moment (31st May) we have got up to the grand total of 58 and I am in no way an expert on coastal birds so there will many a species not accounted for;
Black Back Gull
Black Headed Gull
Greater Spotted Woodpecker
There may a plethora of different species but there will always be few that are that little bit extra special, and top of this list has to be the Kingfisher. It is quite a privilege to enjoy your morning coffee and watch them flitting from the stern of the boat to the willow and then wait until a flash of colour ending in a splash, another flash of colour, and then the beating of the minnow against a branch until it is deemed edible. The garden is where we spend a lot of our spare time and the distinctive shrill call of theirs can be heard well before their arrival which almost led me to impaled by one the other day. When I was working on the banks of the stream, I heard the call, and straightened my back to see his arrival only to realise I was in his flight path. Thankfully he took evasive action and continued on his way up to the top ponds finally alighting on the gunnera.
What is also notable is the changing patterns and the frequency of visitations, with some regulars, some periodic and some in great rushes. Greater spotted woodpeckers were nowhere to be seen, then for a fortnight it was almost unusual to not see at least one on the bird feeder and then gone, at best an occasional visitor now along with Blue Tits who now have an abundance of caterpillars to get on top of.
It has to be said though, that one of the delights of living here is the lack of traffic noise in the background. This was obviously helped this year with the event of Covid but has also highlighted the racket that wildlife can make! We are just coming to the end of sitting for the Canada geese so their numbers coming back to the river seem to be increasing on a daily basis. This on the face of it is great, but Canada Geese do not seem to have a stable relationship with the rest of flock. They appear to be getting along fine then one will be a little too close for another goose’s liking which not only causes a neighbourly dispute but also involves every surrounding neighbour as well. This may well take several minutes before everybody’s boundaries are duly respected and peace can resume, until the next dispute.
This, however, pales into insignificance when it comes to Shelduck. They have got to be the most argumentative species of bird alive. Most of the time they argue over everything, but when the female is on eggs, that leaves all the males on the bank together so it is no longer an argument but now full out war. Couple this aggressive nature with a call that sounds like an angry laugh and sometimes the constant drone of distant traffic doesn’t sound that bad after all. It was all the more highlighted by the sad plight of a Ruddy Shelduck that stayed for a short period. Way out of his normal area he must have escaped from a private collection somewhere which left him with absolutely no prospect of finding a mate. So, he calmly walked up and down the bank fruitlessly looking while all around him his British counterparts swore and shouted, and then he went, optimistically off to new ground.
With flaming June around the corner most summer migrants are here already so from now on any additions will probably be birds we have already missed, living here has given us a wonderful opportunity to observe and learn. There is always something new to see outside the window, like a Roe deer swimming across the river at high tide in the morning mist last week.