The Earth is rotating ever on and we wait with baited breath for the arrival of summer, yet spring is at its most busy now so let me share with you what I have seen recently. If you want to read my early spring post click here.
In Dorset the limestone cliffs of Durlston head were speckled black and white by the huddled forms of hundreds of Guillemots and Razorbills, squatting on their eggs in thin crevices – looking much like barnacles. These northern penguins can only just fly; they rattle their wings furiously to stay airborne and whiz jet-like to and from the cliffs or sit on the swelling water in close rafts of raucous chums. Further inland, on the edge of a wood, a tree stands rigidly dead and honeycombed with holes beaten out of the bone-dry branches by industrious woodpeckers. In one of the large top holes an oily-black Starling emerges, followed by the incessant screeches of its young sitting in the dark smelly depths of the tunnel. Not far below is another hole, this ones entrance is shrunk by the addition of smooth mud, the culprit soon alights on the dead branch and crawls inside with a beakfull of insects; it is a smartly dressed Nuthatch – this one branch seems to be a bird high-rise.
Closer to home a pair of Blue Tits are raising what sounds like a large brood in one of the nest boxes I have put up on our outside wall, these are amazing parents as they flit in with food several times a minute all day long. On my local patch the ramsons are in full, impressive bloom that covers a large portion of the woodland floor, in those parts that are light up by sunshine honey bees are eagerly snuffling up the pollen and nectar – there must be a hive (possibly wild) nearby. On my last walk around my patch I discovered two new Great Tit nests, one in the rotten branch of an ancient Oak tree and the other only a few centimeters off the ground in the hollow bole of a small Ash – I could see the chicks in the bottom and I fear for their survival so close to danger.
On the ornamental fish pond that sits at the bottom of a small Victorian garden (now without a manor) a pair of Great Crested Grebes are sitting on their second clutch of eggs. The two chicks from the first brood are now quite big but are still striped like a zebra-crossing, they follow their dad in the hope of food but with new chicks to feed soon they will have to get their own. Terrapins are sunbathing on the roots of trees, these released creatures are nasty things that eat chicks for breakfast – they are certainly responsible for the suspicious disappearance of the three Egyptian geese goslings. On the bright side a Greenfinch rasps away at his tuneless song in a tall conifer, a great-spotted woodpecker hops across the sky, a brimstone lazily flaps and glides across the field in front of me – and most welcome of all, having been gone for eight months, are the elegant cocoa coloured Swifts Apus apus, screaming for the summer as they swim through the sky.