The morning started off grey, over cast, with an ever so slight nip in the air. The bushes and trees of the farm remain relatively subdued. This time last year spring had most definitely sprung and it felt like we were almost into summer already. The Magnolia next to the stables was in full bloom. Its brilliant white blossoms dazzling on the tree and drifting through the warm air. Fast forward 12 months to the present and the tree is full of buds but not yet blooming. Spring flowers do however add a wonderful splash of colour to the borders, but the rest of the garden remains firmly at the ‘bud’ stage. It’s not just the trees and shrubs delayed by the recent cold weather. Many of our early summer migrant birds are also delayed. Chiffchaffs, swallows, and blackcaps for example, all running a little late this year.
The garden is however, like last week, full of bird song. And like last week over wintering birds like brambling continue to add their distinct calls to the symphony. Many of the birds that have called the garden and its surrounds home for the winter are now starting to move off to their breeding territories. For some like the brambling it will be miles away in Scandinavia, for others like many of the siskin it will involve moving off into the wider environ of Thetford Forest. And for some it will simply be to a different part of the garden, like the robin building its nest in the shed.
The morning progresses with the weather slipping quickly through the seasons; the patter of rain drops on the polytunnel sends us scampering outside to check the nets only to find it barely raining, the sound having been amplified on the smooth plastic roof. Then mid-morning and the sun finally breaks through the dull layer of cloud, brightening the garden and raising the temperature in the polytunnel enough to require the removal of coat and jumper, and to hint at summer to come.
While numbers of birds were slightly down on last week, there were still plenty of brambling, adding to their fat reserves before making that flight north and east. Plenty of siskin making the most of a known food source before moving to set up breeding territories, or taking a break from nest building. And of course there were still plenty of great tits and blue tits, it being just a short ‘hop’ from the nest boxes of the wood to the feeders of the garden.
Delightful additions to this week’s catch included a young male great spotted woodpecker, a young male lesser redpoll, and a tiny female goldcrest.
But catch of the day went to the wonderful surprise of a female firecrest. Sharing the title of Britain’s smallest bird with the goldcrest, but with a distinct white eye brow and a snazzy black eye stripe making their heads look not only more striped, but cleaner and sharper compared to the goldcrest. Not a bird we catch every day in the Farm’s garden.
And so the morning ringing comes to an end with the sun shining and a new bird call chattering through the sky. I look up and smile: the first swallow has returned.