Here we are, almost at Easter, and it is ages since I wrote anything new in here – for which my apologies to those of you who have been back to see if there were any new contributions. The truth is that there has been a great deal of uncertainty in our household of late – all of which will be revealed after the last day of this month (and the reason for this delay will become apparent to anyone reading the piece I shall write after that date has passed!)
Spring has sprung once again – and the grass has riz (as the old ditty says) and the early mornings (actually, the very early mornings are full of bird song……….and once I wake up and hear it – and that’s it…… no more sleep as I lie in bed listening and trying to see how many different species turn out for choir practice on another dawn-grey morning. This last weekend we went on a house-hunting expedition to the West Country, and within about 100 metres of where I was sleeping, there was a deep wooded gully with a little stream meandering through the bottom of it. I did my usual ridiculously early wake-up on the first morning, triggered by the call of a male Tawny Owl – who seemed to become increasingly frustrated as his repeated calls remained unanswered. It seems that the female he was trying to attract wasn’t interested, or was doing the age-old thing of playing hard to get. Either way, he got no response at all, and by the time he gave up in disgust…or whatever male Tawny Owls feel in place of disgust… the grey dawn was breaking, very ably assisted by a marauding mob of those chavs of the cliff-tops (and the roof-tops….and anywhere else from which they can scream their coarse cacophony), namely a party of Herring Gulls, out looking for trouble- or a snack- or anything else that they might fancy. A couple of rather respectable Rooks took exception to their antics and tried to chase them away, and the ensuing short, sharp encounter sounded reminiscent of the old Mods and Rockers confrontations on seaside promenades the length and breadth of Britain way back in the Glorious (for sooooooooooooooo many reasons!) Sixties.
I was debating whether to get up and take the dog for a walk, when it started….. an archetypal Dawn Chorus of the most exquisite kind. First, a couple of Wood Pigeons cleared their opalescent throats, then a Magpie joined in -that Fisherwife of the hedgerows- to be followed by a gradual build up to a crescendo of melodic sound ensuing from the wooded gully nearby. As an ornithologist, one of the delights of being in less familiar places is to hear not only the song of different birds to the ones one usually hears at home -but also to hear the different accents detectable in birds like Chaffinches, Wrens and Great Tits. It is amazing how different they can sound -just like people speaking with different regional accents – and it is a constant joy to spot the differences. (“Sad bastard!” I hear you mutter again …… Within a matter of ten minutes, I had heard Chaffinches, a Robin, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Hedge Sparrow (Dunnock to some of you), Blue Tit and Great Tit – and then an infrequent one for me – a Marsh Tit. Cue the sopranos…..and there were Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, a very melodious Blackcap, a Garden Warbler aspiring to similar heights of purity (and really, it was “no contest”), then joy of joy – my first Nightingale for several years. Mind you, I’ve always felt they were over-rated as songsters, and the little Goldfinches which made the final entry into that early-morning line-up beat the Nightingale hands down for sheer delicacy and joyfulness of their song.
A delightfully warm wife, and the music show from the gully meant that our poor Frog Dog (read the first entry in this blog for an explanation of that name!) never did have his early morning walk…….
By the end of the weekend, we felt that we had made the right choice of area in which to make our home. Stig (aka Frog Dog) had a wonderful time at the seaside (more of that anon), and we discovered a hitherto unknown (to me, anyway) North Devon snack, known as a “Brunchie” (consisting of a sausage, a rasher of bacon and a dollop of baked beans – all wrapped up in a puff-pastry parcel. Yummy )
Will we be back again? Too right we will! In spite of the constant 45 degree slopes up or down, it is a delightful place, with some delightful people, and real ozone in the air you breathe. Golden Pig Bitter was extremely palatable too!