Bird Therapy

By Joe Harkness

A personal, passionate and practical guide to the mental health benefits of bird watching.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

My favourite signs of spring

For those of you who follow me on Twitter, I posted this poem on the 8th of April - inspired by a visit to my local patch:

"Through hanging mists and drizzle drifts, my favourite signs of spring. The Blackcap’s back, his tuneful scratch is warm and uplifting. Three Swallows strafe across the lake, from blossom starts to sing. A Willow Warbler - descending grace, my favourite signs of spring."

A Chiffchaff came first - although seemingly later than everyone else I know. Next came a Blackcap skulking in the brambles by the lake - not quite singing but scratching away - worried and edgy. Then the seasonal floodgates opened this last weekend with the sight of scooping Swallows and a lone House Martin powering over the big lake. They seemed to follow the same trajectories - making it easier to anticipate their movements and watch them. Suddenly a tumbling melody fell out of a nearby birch tree - my first Willow Warbler singing. Ten minutes of activity in the grizzly drizzle, ten minutes of elation and positivity.

I wonder what might turn up next and I keep finding myself thinking, perhaps even dreaming about what it may be.  The focus of my attention will be an area at my patch called the 'reversion field' - an old piece of arable farmland that's been left to rewild. Where it adjoins an existing area of heathland - it's reverting to heathland itself.

Many, if not most, of the experiences I've written about in Bird Therapy have taken place at my patch and a vast number of these have happened on the reversion field itself. I discovered in 2016, by complete fluke, that it attracts a range of summer migrants. The first of these was a Ring Ouzel on April 5th - written about in detail in the book. This week has marked the 'anniversary' of this day and although I missed out on one, my friend found one there a few days ago - keeping the pattern going.

In a few weeks, it's likely that a flock of Ring Ouzels will move through - lingering for a couple of days. They may also bring with them a Whinchat or two, and around this time - some Wheatear should pass by too - plus, if I'm really lucky, the cow field next-door will attract a Yellow Wagtail.

These avian calendars are one of the many things about birdwatching that help to keep me grounded. I know what to expect and roughly when to expect it. These dates are ingrained in my psyche - providing comfort and consistency, as well as offering something to look forward to. 

I'll update in a few weeks as to what turns up my patch. I know it well enough to know it will share a secret with me this spring - which I will share with you.


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