It has arrived! The first swallow showed up in the yard yesterday afternoon. This morning it sits forlornly on the wire waiting for more to arrive. But it is always good to see the first one - the one that has made that incredible journey all the way from Africa and has arrived here, on the farm, where it was probably born last year, ready to scoop up 'mud' from the midden and repair and rebuild its nest ready to start breeding this year. I always see it as the indisputable proof that Spring has arrived.
Our farmer neighbour, A, has a wild duck which has built a nest on top of his straw stack and is aready sitting on her eggs. A uses this stack every day as bedding for his large dairy herd, which is still inside for Winter. Now, being the countryman he is, he is skirting round this part of the stack to leave the duck in relative peace so that she can bring off her brood. I just hope that if she achieves this the ducklings will be able to make the perilous leap down to the barn floor before setting off for the beck fifty yards or so away. Ducks really are daft when they choose where to make their nests.
This is not the case with most other birds (apart from the collared doves who, as usual, have built a nest in the Scots Pines: it is windy today and we fully expect to find the nest, or at least the eggs, on the floor by tonight) and already we can see blackbirds furtively slipping into the holly hedges with nesting material. There are even blackbirds scratching for worms on the lawn, which suggests there might even be babies. Friends who were round last evening told us that both swallows and a blackbird nest in their barn and that during nesting time have a very uneasy relationship.
We always have a pair of pied wagtails in our farmyard. They choose various places to nest, the most unusual being one year, when they had a nest, and reared their ,in the concrete mixer.
This year they are flitting about but as yet we haven't seen where they are building.
The poet, John Clare, loved the pied wagtail and wrote about it in a poem which is one of my favourites:
Little trotty wagtail he went in the rain,
And tittering tottering sideways he ne'er got straight again,
He stooped to get a worm and looked up to catch a fly,
And then he flew away ere his feathers they were dry.
Little trotty wagtail he waddled in the mud,
And left his little footmarks trample where he would,
He waddled in the water pudge and waggle went his tail,
And chirrupt up his wings to dry upon the garden rail.
Little trotty wagtail you nimble all about,
And in the dimpling water pudge you waddle in and out,
Your home is nigh at hand and in the warm pigsty,
So little Master Wagtail I'll bid you a 'Goodbye'.
We are also lucky enough to have two pairs of yellow hammers who visit the bird table every day. Both appear to nest in what we call our 'bottom fields', fields with fairly low hedges but which are thick and dense when they are in leaf, with a mixture of species - hawthorn, holly blackthorn, elder - so that there is plenty of cover.
Once the nesting season is well underway I like to walk along the hedgeside on my lunchtime walk with Tess, and I usually see them searching for food for their babies.
What an exciting (and renewing) time of year it is if you are interested in Nature with all its aspects. Everything is starting again after a taxing winter, and with the arrival of that first swallow then we know things are well underway.
Have a good Sunday.