Saturday, 15 March 2014

A wonderful 40 minutes

I had heard from a friend (Ron) that Chiffchaff had arrived at The Avenue on the Friday (14th March). So I set my alarm for 30 minutes earlier than I would normally, and thought I’d pop down for half hour before work. I arrived at around 07:45 to a Robin singing, soon to be followed by a Wren competing in nature’s version of the X-Factor. I walked along the River Rother first and soon came across singing Great Tit, Blue Tit and Dunnock. A Blackbird flew in front of me and as I looked up I could see 2 Magpies hopping along the tree tops, 2 Carrion Crows then called and chased them as they got to near their nest site. Then it happened, the call I had been eager to hear, ‘chiffchaff, chiffchaff, chiffchaff’, I smiled from ear to ear as I caught sight of a Chiffchaff singing from a Alder tree. My first of the season always feels great as I know what is to come over the next few weeks. I reluctantly moved on and saw Moorhen and Mallard in the Sidings Meadow, a Grey Wagtail landed on a rock and called from near the River, and a Green Woodpecker undulated passed me Yaffleing as it flew towards the Sidings footpath. As I was passing through the gate near the Dipping pond I heard the familiar call of Long-tailed Tit, at the top of the slope I could see and hear Yellowhammer and Linnet singing, and just beyond was Chaffinch and Bullfinch joining in the chorus. As I looked over towards the Reedbed and Duckmarsh ponds, as I didn’t have time to walk round there, I could see a pair of Canada Geese holding onto one of the islands, Coot was feeding along the shore line and a Song Thrush flew over Redleadmill Brook. 2 Woodpigeon took to the air from a Silver Birch as I walked back towards the car, and a flock of around 40 Starlings were feeding in the farmer’s field, above them a Skylark sang, its fluid notes fell to earth like honey, beautiful. I looked up to see what looked like another Woodpigeon flying fast over the meadow, always worth checking because as I found it in my binoculars I saw it was a Stock Dove, 4 Goldfinch followed and finally a Pied Wagtail chirr-upped over me as I reached the car. As I sat in the car and reflected over the last 40 minutes, and the 27 species I had just had the pleasure of seeing, and hearing all those wonderful songs I realised it was the Chiffchaff with its two note song and its drab colours that had given me the most uplifting experience of the morning. It is the expectation of what follows the Chiffchaff, another breeding season with all of the warblers, swallows, martins, the call of the Cuckoo, the flycatchers and the Hobbies that give chase to the summer visitors they have followed back to this small reserve. If you have never been to The Avenue Washlands, you should, it’s a marvellous place to be.

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