Four weeks into the lockdown and I was finding that it was becoming much more difficult to stay excited and motivated by the birding available locally. A couple more walks to Trow Pool on the 21st and 25th of April, although pleasant, had yielded nothing different, even if some species, such as the Whitethroats that had excited us so much when first finding them a week or so before, had become much more numerous. We had both become increasingly disillusioned with the "new" patch and were really missing out on seeing some of our more usual sought after birds that would be available at this time of year. Even more local folk had discovered the walk too and on a fine morning the bridleway was resembling a busy High Street. Far too popular for us and we had to go somewhere else, and not just for social distancing sakes. The only new bird that we added to our year list in the week was Common Swift when I spotted a couple soaring incredibly high above our house which brought up the 150.
|feral Canada & Barnacle Geese|
I had been holding a small job over, just outside Oxfordshire and very close to a place where I knew that I could see and listen to some of the most special birds of spring. The Lockdown period had actually helped me out since I wasn't able to visit the work site until now owing to it being impossible to socially distance in the part of the building where I was wanted. Now it was safe for me to do so, and I admit that I took advantage of the situation, I walked just the half mile or so from the site once I'd finished work, to a place which I knew would hold Nightingales. For me spring is all about hearing and seeing our most eloquent of all songsters and at least I'd now have my chance.
I could hear Nightingale song even before I'd reached the small common. I walked up and down the road to pinpoint where the song was coming from. Now, as every birder knows, hearing Nightingales is one thing, actually seeing them is another. They can be incredibly hard to locate as they move around in dense foliage and rarely emerge into full view to sing. By walking around the trees and heathland area, I had heard at least six different Nightingales singing or calling and I selected a couple in places where I thought I'd stand the best chance of getting a glimpse of one. To make it even more difficult I had chosen the only wet and windy day that we'd seen in the last month.
One of the Nightingales was singing almost continually from a small stand of Silver Birch trees which had an understory of brambles and gorse, perfect habitat for Nightingales, and I tried to place it amongst the tangle of branches and leaves. Nearly an hour later, it takes a while to get a line on a Nightingales movements, I finally caught a brief view of a rusty red tail disappearing back into a gorse bush. I told you it wasn't easy! Another half hour and I finally nailed my views, still partially obscured in one of the Silver Birches, of my 153rd species of the year.
We waited for the Nightingale to finish its concert and then slipped away leaving it and the others to it. I would have loved to have taken a lot longer in their company but until the Lockdown was lifted completely we wouldn't be able to. Usually by the beginning of June, Nightingales have ceased their singing, so it'll be next year before we get to hear them again. Something to look forward to!