As I walked up to the woods I was met by a wall of cows. They followed me up the field – heifers and a bull. The bull was black and bulky and slightly intimidating. But I made it over our wall safely. It had felt strange without the lambs to greet me at the field gate; even stranger was the lack of activity I found inside the woods. The blackbird nest was empty, the great tits didn’t seem to be at home in any of our nest boxes. Both nuthatch boxes, recently sounding as though woodpeckers had taken up residence within, stood sensible and and straight again, as if slightly abashed and trying to make up for the raucous partying that had gone on inside their four walls. Nest boxes look forlorn, silent. All the little families I had been watching had gone. Of course, it is wonderful to hope the babies have fledged, but strangely quiet all the same. Initially, it seemed, that wherever the fledged babies were, they were keeping quiet and out of sight. It was a lonely day up at the woods. So I was relieved to find all the action kicking off again on my next visit.
As I crossed the wall this time, it was into a noisy tree top scrum. Baby birds were twittering every where. I could hear the great tit family and see the brood, still fluffy and a bit wobbly, calling for food in the trees. The rumpus in the branches was mostly tits, (its hard to follow with binoculars), but there were baby nuthatches around too. Then screeching from a nest hole, something I couldn’t fail to miss, a red headed greater spotted woodpecker shouting at the top of it’s voice for food, and its parent, just as vociferously, telling me to move off. I think there were two loud voices coming from the hole in the tree, but there was only room for one head to poke out at a time so I couldn’t be sure. I found a marsh tit nest too, in a hole behind a gash in a yew. There were four chicks that I could make out, squished very cosily inside. The parents were in and out, beaks loaded with food.
There are feathers all over the wood at the moment. The children are having a great time collecting them. It is that time of year when the adult birds are moulting feathers, and we have found some lovely ones. It is the owl feathers I like the most. Soft edged and furry, almost translucent; designed for silence.
As I left the woods on this occasion, the blackbirds were back to full voice – I could hear one shout at me as I approached the wall.
“All right, all right, I’m going,” I joked as I saw it swoop infront of me, all noise and business. The impression of aggressive defender was somewhat diminished however when it landed on a branch ahead and promptly fell off. It was then I noticed it’s rather stubby tail – a young bird. It will not be long though before it has grown into its voice, and it reminds me these little birds will begin to disperse soon. I need to make the most of watching these young grow and learn while I can.