5 March 2017

Love is in the Air

March 5th

Small flocks of Yellowhammer in the bushes

Now I know that Spring will come again,

Perhaps tomorrow:

Edward Thomas, March

We walk in the Hertfordshire countryside, near our home. The Lea Valley, through Wheathampstead; across the fields and through the woods to Ayot St Lawrence; the Brocket estate near Lemsford; Heartwood Forest, between our home and Sandridge; the Ver valley near Redbournbury Mill, and just across the common land between us and St Albans.

Rooks, moving their parliament

In winter, when the days are short and the paths are wet, it is not so easy to spend time exploring comfortably, but when the days begin to lengthen we can venture further, longer.  It is gentle countryside, with no bare mountains, nor wild forests. The creatures we see are familiar ones - this is not the land of great deer or awesome predators - but, despite the intensity of human activity and the pressure of roads and buildings, there are wild things around.

Spring is such a good time of year. Signs of life abound.  Buds, and shoots, the tender green leaves of bluebells appearing amongst the leaf litter of the woods, the unfolding of the early blossoms:

As you look across the fields, green with early wheat, the hedgerows and woods appear tinged with colour. What was spare and twiggy is now fuzzy and here there's a touch of yellow, there a copper hue.  But the lack of leaves allows us to see more, to watch the mixed flocks of tits fluttering through the hazel and birch.

Long-tailed tit

The chaffinches, so quiet through the winter, are tuning up, and it seems that every oak or ash is now supporting that bright interrogative song.

By the river Lea I see a kingfisher flash past, the brilliant cobalt wings whirring upstream too quick for my focus.  But less shy are the Grey Wagtails, bobbing and flitting just above the water:

And the normally shy Wren pauses for me to take a portrait, without the usual scolding Tchik! Tchik! or its trilling warning.

Today, near the railway line through Heartwood Forest, I catch sight of two Buzzards.  At first I think they may just be circling in their usual hunting patterns, but I don't hear them mewing, and as I watch I see they are more engaged with each other than with what's on the ground.  

I, I'm willing and able
So I throw my cards on your table
See, I want to love ya, I want to love and treat ya
love and treat ya right

Bob Marley - Is This Love

Of course it is not all about love....  Though the Jackdaws that flap over my street and frequent the chimney pots and TV aerials of my neighbours tend to fly in til-death-do-they-part pairs, something has disturbed the pattern of this flock....

And, true enough, speeding across the sky in hungry flight, is a Sparrowhawk.

In the meantime the thrushes are busy feeding up for the breeding season.  On pastures near Sandridge the other day I counted thirty Redwing and two Fieldfares, though it was a dim drizzly day and I was without binoculars, so it could have been about thirty mixed Redwing and Fieldfare. What I do know is that this is a bold Mistle Thrush:

And who doesn't long for the evening song of the Blackbird, as opposed to the chattering alarm call?

I love the little pond to mark at spring
When frogs and toads are croaking round its brink
When blackbirds yellow bills gin first to sing

John Clare

And then there's homebuilding.  Storm Doris did the birds a favour, perhaps, in loosening twigs and spilling building material for all to plunder.  Along the Lea the other evening I was surprised by a Red Kite flying low past me and away, clutching a hefty rafter in its talons.... 

While displaying mastery of the air the bird simultaneously stripped some unwanted addition from the wood, just caught here discarded to the top right of the picture....

Then, follow this sequence.  The stick is in the feet.....

Now it's in the beak....

And now it's back in the feet....

I reckon that's worth at least six points on the licence!

Though I'm not sure I would have the nerve to pull this one over....

Anyway, it's all part of the business of Spring, along with Amanda's 63rd birthday!  Here's a bunch of flowers for you dear.....

All token spring and every day
Green and more green hedges and close
And every where appears
Still tis but March
But still that March is Spring

John Clare - Spring

Or, as John Paul Young sang in 1978:

Love is in the air everywhere I look around
Love is in the air every sight and every sound


  1. Marvellous photos and wonderfully evocative text!. Simon G