Sketches and notes from Gilling East- March 2nd

Yesterday, the first day of meteorological spring we saw a big increase in tree sparrow activity. Males sit by nest site entrances encouraging females to enter the space. There was some nest building too. The males seem to exaggerate their size by puffing up their feathers to the extreme, sometimes almost completely hiding the wing structure save for the tips of their primary feathers. We are blessed with a very good population of tree sparrows in the village; they far outnumber house sparrows. The high pitched chirping of males by nest sites fills the air from now until late summer; three broods here is not uncommon.

Song thrushes own the dawn and dusk choruses at present: the clarity of notes and sheer volume of their song is so impressive. It is a common species in the village and the singing males are not difficult to see as they perform from exposed perches, but otherwise sightings are few. They are very elusive most of the time and stick mainly to hedge bottoms and the woodland floor as they search for snails and other invertebrates. Unless you know the song you could easily be forgiven for thinking they are absent. Blackbirds are only just warming up still but can be heard early and late in the day. Robins are in full song and can be seen nest site prospecting, one tried to enter a blue tit box yesterday.

The first frogs of spring arrived at the pond yesterday on a mild, damp early evening, however, once the rain cleared an air frost formed and there was no trace of them(or any spawn) by morning. The pond was a joyful lock down project and it has provided constant interest and pleasure since. Now well established, it has attracted numerous damselflies and dragonflies to lay eggs, including the spectacular emperor dragonfly. Newts are regularly seen and the procession of bathing birds is almost constant, especially around midday.

Today feels very much like winter again- misty and cold. According to official meteorological definition we are now in spring but this time of year often sees wild swings between warm and cold days especially if close to the North Sea. We are lulled into a false sense of security by warmer days when mid winter seems far away, But even on raw days the signs are all around us now and we cannot deny the advancing season. As the snowdrops begin to fade the shoots of wild garlic and wild arum thrust skyward, the first primroses bloom and the birds are responding to all the extra light. The rookeries resound with raucous calls(a sound I love) and dropped sticks litter the ground below. Hope springs eternal.

Song thrush in full spring song
Song thrush at dusk
Tree sparrows selecting nest site. Male puffs feathers up to extreme as female prospects.
Tree sparrow pair in beech hedge.

1 thought on “Sketches and notes from Gilling East- March 2nd”

  1. Your words and pictures are so refreshing. I feel as if I can see, hear and smell the spring!

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