May 03, 2011

The summer migrants

There are whinchats nesting all over Dartmoor, handsome summer migrants in from Africa to nest among the gorse. Tinder-dry after weeks without rain, let's hope it doesn't go up. Half of County Down, it seems, is in flames; what of all the ground-nesting birds?

While we were in the West Country my mother-in-law heard a cuckoo: clear as day, the two notes taking possession of a sheltered Devon valley like a diffident clarion: spring's here... spring's here...

And there's more. We saw swallows and house martins in East Sussex last weekend, flickering through the herds of cows and scything high above the fields. It's the swifts I'm waiting for now, and it's my bet that within a week we'll see them over London, tiny black sickles circling on the city's thermals, beaks open like sleek little basking sharks quartering shoals of aerial plankton. I can't wait.