As I step outside the house this morning, a Blackbird is belting out his fluid song, trying to make up for lost time. It’s mild, and although it’s still dark all the birds are singing. I hear a Chaffinch’s tumbling call, and the gentle cooing of Woodpigeons. Making my way to the Fen, I pass the common where the local Barn Owl is hunting. I pause, trying to photograph him from the car, but it’s still too dark. There’s a flash of acid yellow and a stunningly bright male Yellowhammer perches on a post nearby. He greets his duller coloured mate, dropping his wings and flicking his tail, and together they buzz away to the hedgerow.
Finally making it to the Fen, I catch a snippet of birdsong, I turn my head and there it is again, at last the see-sawing call of a Chiffchaff, repeating his name over and over, my first this year.
I can’t see any Barn Owls yet, so concentrate on capturing the ponies grazing with the rising sun behind them. As I move down the path to get into a better position, I spot a Muntjac deer, nervously heading in my direction, he hesitates and bolts back the way he came. I suddenly notice the Barn Owl hunting, but I’m in the wrong position, and once again he escapes my camera.
On the path ahead, the Roe deer buck is grazing, and I steadily stalk closer. He glances up and moves off into the reeds, but I’ve fallen for this trick before and I quietly, slowly walk on. Keeping my eyes fixed on the point where he disappeared I move as close as I dare, and then wait. I spot the slightest movement, and can just see his mate, the doe through the reeds. She sees me, but can’t make out what I am, and now she stalks towards me. Lifting her head to try and catch my scent, but the wind’s in my face, so I know she won’t smell me. Slowly she emerges from the reeds onto the path.
She pauses, elegantly raising one hoof, staring at me. She decides I’m not particularly interesting, and trots off down the path, joining the buck and then moving off into the reeds again. This time I don’t follow, and leave them to it.
I head over to a different part of the Fen, in search of Reed buntings. Birds are singing all around, and I come across this little Wren. It’s good to see this tiny bird has managed to survive the winter, and now he’s singing his heart out in the sun.
There’s a group of ponies grazing, but all amongst them are the Reed buntings. There are good numbers of these cheerful little birds on the Fen and right now they are busy defending territories and trying to attract a mate. One handsome chap poses for me briefly.
I watch them gathering nesting material, flying to and fro carrying long stems of grass like streamers.
On my way home, I’m driving through a village when a small slim bird flicks towards me and over the car. I don’t get a good look, but the shape is somehow familiar. Was it? Could it be? I swing the car around and retrace my route. There it is, perched on the phone wire, glossy blue back, deep red bib, shining white chest. I slow the car, grinning from ear to ear – the first Swallow! What a relief! The cold harsh winter is finally over, and summer is on it’s way.
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