With the advent of Spring, albeit three weeks late, the time has arrived for some re-positioning among the feathered residents of the garden.
The single robin which spent much of January and February hopping around under the hedge has left as also has a lone chiffchaff which finally gave up on efforts to spend the colder weather indoors by the direct but completely futile method of flying through a closed window.
I had always understood chiffchaffs to be migratory and assumed that this was a youngster who had been forgotten when mother packed the suitcases or was perhaps another victim of global warming, though there was nothing in last autumn’s weather in Jénou to discourage him from taking the first available flight! Not so, apparently. My copy of that invaluable little book, Collins Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe, assures me that the little fellow is resident across most of western Europe 365 days of the year.
I hope the robin has not fallen prey to the latest recruit to the local cat death squad, an overfed tabby which has also taken up residence in the base of the hedge a discreet distance from the bird-feeder. (Don’t worry; I have moved the bird feeder.)
While the great tits continue to their best to empty a full container of sunflower seeds in the space of a morning they are getting more competition from a recent influx of both greenfinches and goldfinches whose presence since the turn of the year has been occasional only. The greenfinches, when not fighting each other either on or under the feeder (which seems to be their main occupation in life), decorate the flowering cherry, sitting on the branches like Christmas candles on a fir tree. The goldfinches prefer the real thing, spreading themselves around the upper branches of the 30-foot fir in the lawn where pride of place on the topmost twig goes to the senior (I assume) collared dove, recently returned with the rest of his noisy tribe from wherever he chose to pass most of the winter.
The resident noisy tribe, the sparrows, continue to do what sparrows do. The time of day, the time of year, even the weather seem to have little effect. They jostle for position on the ground under the sunflower seeds or the nut feeder, a dozen or more at a time,making a dash for the safety of the fir tree each time one of them is spooked by something — or nothing. After a warm spell with the earth raked and ready for the potatoes and enough sun to dry the surface they turn the seed bed into a bath house.
Amongst all this activity the blue tits continue to nibble away at the peanuts apparently unfazed even by the presence of human beings barely six feet away. Always as long as you stand still. The coal tit (or is it two?) is only marginally more nervous. A pair of bullfinches has flown in, presumably on a reconnaissance mission since in three years these are the first two we have seen, and there is a token representation of chaffinches and a handful of siskins (another new arrival this Spring).
The blackbirds, another breed that spends most of the winter elsewhere, have also returned and are blatantly up to their favourite Spring occupation.
And there, dive-bombing Madame as she brings in the washing, the final piece in the Spring jigsaw. The swallows are back.