The best month of the year?
Well… that’s debatable of course, but I’d say probably the most exciting.
My sandals & shorts have been dusted off and worn again – and I thinnnnk I’ve put away my beanie hats for 7 or so months once more. I always look forward to that time.
As described here, things are afoot. Things are moving. Things are appearing.
I’ve spent a few hours in the garden over the last couple of days, watching and listening, because at this time of year, you simply don’t know what you’ll see anywhere – at any time. For me, at least, it’s very exciting.
I spent my lunch break today watching the skies. Not so much for the first holly blue butterflies that today appeared in the garden (low), nor the shield bugs and drone flies that have been helicoptering around.
Waaaaaay above them – waaay up into the fluffy clouds – watching dots.
Rather like hearing a rustle deep in the understory of woodlands down here (which 70ish% of the time will be a blackbird sifting through leaf litter and 29ish% of the time will be a grey squirrel), watching dots in the sky at this time of year round here will mean that almost invariably you’re watching soaring buzzards or red kites.
But occasionally…. Just occasionally… the dot will be an osprey. Or a swallow. Or a little later in the month… a swift!
I’ve been watching the soaring buzzards and kites all lunch time and it’s been a joy, even though none have been an osprey or a swallow.
To be fair though, I’ve probably maxed out on luck with unexpected or occasional sightings after last night.
At ten minutes past eight, I walked up our long garden to shut the girls (hens) into their fox-proof coop for the night. As I walked up the garden I was thinking to myself I wonder if tonight’s the night where I’ll see our first bat of the year (we have soprano pipistrelles and common pipistrelles each year hawking over our pond).
The girls seemed content, so I bolted their door and turned back towards the house – only to have a bat scream round the corner of a leylandii we have planted by the coop and rocket upwards in front of my face.
“SUPERB!” I thought. “They’re back”!
As I looked up to follow the tiny bat, I noticed a strange-shaped bird in the gloom, flying due north, over the house, at about 50 foot, heading exactly in my direction.
I immediately thought “now that’s a very strange, dumpy-looking heron” – but as it got closer, I realised that it was no heron, no grey heron at least.
When it flew over my head (like I say at about 40 or 50 foot only) it became absolutely crystal clear to me what this bird was – a BITTERN!
Now I’ve seen bitterns before around here. But only in the winter, and only in their preferred habitat of thick reed beds. And never flying.
To see a bittern flying, pretty-well at night, (well… deep gloom anyway), in April, at least 8 or 9 miles from a suitable habitat is preposterous, for anyone, including me.
Maybe there are 100 pairs of bitterns breeding in the UK each spring - but I have no real clue what this individual was doing flying over our garden at dusk. I assume it was migrating somewhere - but where exactly - who knows?!
I’m lucky I have very good eyesight; I’m lucky I often put myself in positions where if a bittern DOES fly over my head in April, I’ll probably see it; I’m lucky that I have a little bit of zoological knowledge to be able to recognise and identify these things (quite often) and I’m lucky that I am often painfully-aware of what’s going on around me (animal-wise, rather than human-wise, much to the frustration of any human companion I’m with), but even so…. a BITTERN?!
I’ve reported it onto the Berkshire birds website and I dare say there’ll be plenty of people reading that report that won’t believe me.
Those people will certainly be people that don’t know me at all, but hey ho.
I’ll end this brief blog by saying get yerselves outside and looking around, grapple-fans.
Really use your eyes - because you simply don’t know what’s going to appear in front of them, even perhaps after the sun goes down, at this time of year.
That’s why I regard April to be probably the most exciting month of all – at least for me.