August 15th- willow warbler song and sea fret

Since Friday’s blog we have had two very grey days, to be honest local inspiration has not come easily. The wind has been coming off the North Sea, dragging sea fret well inland. We have not seen the sun since Friday. This stubborn cloud is hiding a night sky that might otherwise reveal Perseid meteors. It is keeping the temperature low enough to prevent the flight of many insects. Even the ubiquitous large whites are gone, dragonflies and damselflies are hidden, biding their time before the next warm sunlight.

I was reflecting on lockdown back in April. It was remarkable for so many reasons, many of them sad and involving immeasurable suffering. We were very lucky here and for a while we lived in a rather timeless state. I will never forget the blue skies courtesy of high pressure which blocked all weather systems. But lockdown coincided with one of the busiest times of year for a naturalist. There is so much change at such a fast pace in April and May that each year I struggle to take it all in. But lockdown enabled daily observation of local change. I watched single plants change and became familiar with individual birds on territory.

Now in mid August they hide away, moulting their feathers to be warm and protected for the cold dark months ahead. Many plants are fading, the hogweeds are already brown skeletons of their former selves. Leaves on trees and shrubs look tired and worn partly from the adverse weather we experienced after true lockdown. Bird song has almost ceased completely. Occasional bursts from a robin set me thinking of cold autumn mornings when they will be singing more regularly. Even the hoards of tree sparrows are deserting the village- they can be seen enjoying the annual bounty of ripe grain in the fields nearby. The house martins fill the air with their contact calls, a reminder of late spring and high summer. We hear swallows occasionally. I never thought I would say that; swallows sang and twittered above the garden almost seamlessly through summers only a few years ago. They are becoming notable by their absence-what has happened to our swallows?

I am not feeding the birds in the garden at the moment. There is an abundance of natural food now. Our new pond attracts birds to drink and bath and to feed on the numerous insects. Yesterday morning the silence in our garden was punctuated by a willow warbler. It sang a near complete version of its sweet yet mournful spring song and reminded me of the fact that thousands and thousands of migrant birds are creeping through our gardens by day and flying over our heads at night. I watched it sally out from the hedge to take a fly over our pond. Just one fly, but showing that our new pond is part of a much bigger picture; we have helped to fuel a willow warbler on its journey to Africa, I hope someone somewhere will enjoy its complete song next spring. 

Tree Sparrow studies. Available from my studio.

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