Saturday, 20 May 2017

Missing Martins

There’s a promise that this unseasonably cool weather will be over in a day or so, and it may encourage the missing house martins to come in from the cold. There have been some, particularly over reservoirs and lakes, and they’ve been over our cottage in ones or twos, but they should be here in numbers by now. I just hope they’re waiting for warmer weather. 

A streak of light grey on the northwest horizon heralds the end of the rain-bearing clouds. Swifts, sand martins and a few swallows hunt low over Oxwich Marsh in the dying rain, but no house martins. The rain moves on, leaving behind damp, sweet, air, as late afternoon birdsong carries across the reawakening marsh. Gradually insects rise above the misty lake, eagerly swooped up only inches from the surface by the swallows and martins.

It’s still cool, and not the best time of day to watch wildlife, but there’s always something to see. There are moments in the countryside I often want to bottle. Usually it’s something very simple; a view along a river, or even just a single flower, today in the slowly brightening light, it’s a fallen tree along the edge of the marsh that catches my eye. Roots too weak to hold it, the huge willow has fallen into the reeds, exposing a mini cave of dampness crammed with life. The tree probably fell years ago, but is far from dead, as new life springs from its fallen moss-covered trunk. Encroaching into the reeds it’s now part of the vanguard of natural succession, which left unchecked would eventually lead to mature woodland.

In the field beyond the reeds, a pair of nervous greylag geese with tiny goslings remind me that although house martins have not yet started their annual replenishment, some have already produced healthy young. This process of renewal is a long drawn out affair.

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