The signs of spring are tentatively appearing, despite the cold and gloomy winter and today’s near-gale force winds and driving rain.
Late though they are this year, cowslips now carpet the fields and there are vibrant patches of violets in the hedgerows.
Every year, my husband, who is a statistics freak, records the dates on which various migratory birds arrive. Throughout the winter, we look forward to these harbingers of fine weather and months of outdoor living.
The hoopoes had already arrived about 10 days ago, with their signature ‘hoo-hoo-hoo’ call and red-Indian headdress crests. We’ve seen one at close quarters when it clung to the outside window frame of our office. Its sabre-like beak is so long that it had to turn its head sideways to look in. We guess it saw its own reflection and came to inspect what it thought was a mate or a rival.
The cuckoo arrived yesterday (29 March), which is early, although the very earliest we have recorded is 25 March. Given today’s weather, it probably wishes it had stayed at home. They normally arrive in early April. After the first day, they keep quiet for a week or so, no doubt to recover from the shock of the climate change from their African homeland.
The nightingales normally arrive around mid-April. Small and insignificant birds to look at, they take refuge in thickets and sing their sliding and virtuoso song at all times of the day and night.
The final visitor to arrive is the golden oriole, a black and yellow parrot-like bird which cavorts in the tree-tops and utters strange electronic-like noises and remarkably human wolf-whistles.
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