bentley, bentley estate, bentley wildfowl and motor museum, birds, birdwatching, black swans, blue tits, eggs, great tit, nature, nests, Paul Webster, Ranger, Simon Barnes, spring, sussex, wildfowl, wildfowl reserve, wildlife
Author Simon Barnes talks, in his brilliant book ‘Birdwatching With Your Eyes Closed’, of the squeaky pump call of the Great Tit (I prefer the analogy of a wheelbarrow in desperate need of some oil).
He tells us, “It is the first arrow aimed at winters heart. Once winter hears that two-stroke note, it knows it’s a goner. The game is up: the winter can prolong itself as hard as it likes, but the great tits voice says that the endgame has begun…”
Last week here at Bentley that first arrow was loosed; the first true call of the blue tit’s bigger brother was heard. The snow may still linger, the ground creaks with frost each morning but spring is on the way. Quietly and with stealth her arrival is imminent.
The birds on our reserve are more finely tuned to changes we have yet to grasp. The first nests are built and our Black Swans have two eggs with the promise of more. The Storks, relatively new arrivals on our reserve, are beginning to display and bond with the great clacking of bills reminiscent of the football rattles of days gone by.
The hoards of Jays (arrivals from France whose Oak & Beech trees lacked the fruit the birds needed this winter) seem to be dispersing. We usually see two or three of these brilliant members of the crow family; this year we were treated to numbers in the dozens. One survey in Kent counted a single flock of 80 or more (almost unheard of in the UK).
Deer are still very obvious in the evenings, the lack of leaf cover making their presence conspicuous and welcomed. A regular visitor has been a wonderful Fallow stag with antlers broadcasting his age, his experience and his potential as a great father.
As I sit in the office writing I’m watching one our resident weasels scurrying along the edge of the wall. Weasels do everything at full tilt, tiny ginger dynamos, all teeth and attitude. Smaller cousins of the stoat, badger and otter it is always an unexpected treat to see that flash of sinuous red.
When asked how to tell the difference between two of our similar mustelids an unknown (unknown to me anyway) wag passed on this gem, “Weasels are weasily identified while Stoats are stoataly different.”