4th March- rooks and owls

The local rookeries are extremely busy now. Being near or below a rookery in spring is a joyous experience. Their collective rather raucous calls merge and create to my mind a rather soothing if loud noise, certainly a real marker of the season. The road that runs directly underneath some nests is littered with broken twigs dropped by the nest building birds. These nest builders can be impressive to watch as they haul sticks two or three times their own length back to the nest site.

Rookeries are very much part of the English landscape. When the trees are bare in the middle of winter the nests, some battered by winter gales, are for me a reminder of spring. Take the time to look at the rookery through your binoculars or scope. There is so much going on, paired birds are obvious as they feud with neighbours, birds bowing and posturing in aggression, calling as they do so. In sunlight they show glorious glossy purple and blue plumage contrasting with that brutal looking bill. They just ooze character, now is a great time to enjoy your local rookery.

The last week has seen signs of spring mount up each day. Chaffinches are really giving it some welly now, a male singing his rich and cheerful flourish outside my studio as I write. Greenfinches are belting out their mixture of rather exotic fluty notes and contrasting wheezing sounds from tree tops, although not yet performing their display/song flights. Song thrushes and robins are perhaps the most notable songsters at the moment especially early and late. Blackbirds are keeping us waiting for now. The recent milder spell saw a few tentative bursts of song, but they are not really there yet.

Owls have been very vocal this week, particularly in the few minutes before dark. With a dim glow lingering on the western horizon the tawny owls tune up. Recently we have been hearing the rich, low, trembling song of tawnies in the nearby woods. Many people will be unfamiliar with this but it is very beautiful and well worth listening out for. Little owls often have a short burst of calling early in the afternoon, abrupt and incongruous on a bright day and we have been treated to daily afternoon hunting flights by one of the local barn owls.

Rook studies- sunbathing bird (left) with loose feathers covering branch and feet.
Barn owl study, watercolour- available in my shop.

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