March 26, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Walking through the leafless woods a couple of weeks ago the only bird song I could hear was the plaintive
call of a robin, a wood pigeon and a wren but by the time this issue of the magazine comes out that same
wood in so short a time will spring to life again.

Our summer migrants are all on their way back and as the new green leaves burst open the song of the
chiff-chaff seen above will be ringing out from the high tree tops; chiff chiff chiff chaff chiff chiff chaff .
Along with this warbler will be the Willow Warbler arriving only a few days later, a strikingly similar bird but
with pale legs. His call to me is truly the harbinger of spring. I urge you to hear what this beautiful songster
sounds like, tap the following into Google or whatever search engine you like to use http://www.youtube.
com/watch?v=FjiV8et8C34 and you will see and hear it on you-tube. Or simply type in bird song willow warbler.
Sadly our once top songster the nightingale is very rarely heard nowadays,since 1995 their numbers have
crashed by 55% and no one yet really knows why. I suspect there will be several reasons but one of them
must surely be the explosion in numbers of deer.  They are munching through woodlands like locusts and
included in their diet is the low vegetation such as brambles beneath which nightingales love to breed and
shelter. However, remembering that nature abhors a vacuum, enter the black cap warbler that arrives about
the same time as the willow warbler. Not so powerful a singer as our nightingale but he’s not a bad runner up.


A good friend of mine told me that for the third spring in a row he has a bittern on his lake. He desperately
wanted some photographs of it but all he had was a cell phone camera, would I try and get some pictures.
Would I !!
 e situation was such that I could not put a hide up there and leave it for a few days for all the birds to get
used to, I had to erect the hide and hope it would be ignored. It was a security thing, he is doing his best to
keep it quiet in the hope that a second bird may eventually turn up and that they will nest and of course I
was in total agreement with that, I can hardly imagine the sight of a brood of bittern chicks climbing about in
that reed bed, now that would really be something fantastic.
Of course all the birds, mallard, tufted duck etc  flew to to a nearby pond as I erected my hide. Was the
bittern still here? Only thirty minutes passed and across the lake about one hundred and twenty feet away
‘something’ materialised on the margin of the reeds. Yes, it was indeed the bittern. Clearly it had hidden in
the middle of the reed bed while I was ‘in view’ but now all was quiet again it thought I had gone.
It poked about in the roots of the reeds,  finding a snack here and there and gradually ambling my way. Way
too far away for the top quality images I aim for but nevertheless, just in case I didn’t get another chance I
took a few shots.  thanks to the wonderful camera technology of today I can set my camera (a Canon 5D
Mk3) to “silent shutter” and it is utterly brilliant for shy birds such as these.  at bittern meandered back into
the reeds a er only two or three minutes and by the time the sun
was set I was still waiting for it in vain.
However a pair of very handsome Canada geese that had been feeding in front of the hide took off at sunset,

just as everything turned to gold and gave me a wonderful picture opportunity. As for the bittern,
there’s always tomorrow.
Incidentally, for those who read my diary last month, that Hen
Harrier I was a after has left for its breeding grounds and so I will
have to wait until next winter.


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