For a few weeks in early May, drifting in and out of sleep during the wee small hours, I had been listening to the sound of birdsong in the comfort of my warm bed. I decided (a little reluctantly) to rise very early and record the dawn chorus in all its full magnitude. Setting my alarm for 3.30am I emerged sleepily from my bed……but was disappointed to find that the showers of April were downpours in May:
A second try a few days later was thwarted by the wind:
On my third early morning I was in luck. The weather was perfectly still and dry.
I recorded a full 20 minutes with only the occassional interuptions by distant cars or a plane flying overhead. I have condensed this into a 5 minute clip, with minimal editing – just extracting key phases of the chorus and crossfading the clips.
Listen and enjoy without the need to be out of bed at dawn!
The daylight hours of May have also seen a lot of bird activity in the garden, including an intriguing little nest high up in the Birch tree. I think it is a Chaffinch, but hard to tell from below.
A Spotted flycatcher has been investigating the birdbox, but doesn’t seem to have taken up residence as yet …….
… and various birds have been bathing in the pond or the shallow birdbath on the decking.
There were also a few rare moments of dramatic lighting this month.
April seems to be the month that nature really begins to emerge from the “quietness” of its winter shell. Plant life responds with new life and the budding process abounds. Bees visit early blossoms and birds sing out their varied songs.
Last year in early April, at the start of lockdown, I began the practice of sketching one emerging bud in the garden each day.
Sketches of emerging buds - Pencil with watercolour wash
This year I have been busy listening to the range of sounds that fill the air. Some, that really represent this month, have proved difficult to capture. I didn’t have my recording equipment the day I sat quietly by the fence and heard the sound of cows munching on fresh grass, having returned to the fields with their new calves. Next time I went out with my recorder, the cows were far away in the valley!
I did, however, create a small soundscape, in an attempt to encapsulate some of the other sounds that typify April. Listening on headphones will give you the full effect, hopefully immersing you in the sense of Spring.
The new beginnings associated with Easter are always accompanied in April/May by a sense of anticipation in nature; awaiting the sighting of the first House Martins or Swallows. I say sighting, but sometimes it is the awareness of their excitable “chatter”. It never fails to bring a feeling of jubilance, in the knowledge that these migrants have returned to build or re-build their homes for the summer.
It is a profound feeling that resonates deeply. This year it was on Good Friday that I was aware the blue sky had received those welcome dark shadows, flying rapidly in apparent purposeful endeavour. The depth of this event is, for me, beautifully encapsulated in the poem by Mary Webb published in 1928.
The swallows pass in restless companies.
Against the pink-flowered may, one shining breast
Throbs momentary music – then, possessed
With motion, sweeps on some new enterprise.
Unquiet in heart, I hear their eager cries
And see them dart to their nests beneath the eaves;
Within my spirit is a voice that grieves,
Reminding me of empty autumn skies.
Nor can we rest in Nature’s dear delight:
June droops to winter, and the sun droops west.
Flight is our life. We build our crumbling nest
Beneath the dark eaves of the infinite,
We sing our song in beauty’s fading tree,
And flash forth, migrant, into mystery.
by Mary Webb
Reference: Webb, M. (1930) The collected works of Mary Webb. Poems and The Spring of Joy. London: Jonathon Cape, 1928.
Three and a half weeks on from the Spring Equinox, the clocks have changed and the light is gradually increasing. Signs of new life are abundant and buds in all shapes and forms are beginning to “blow”. An old English word:
blow3 /bləυ/v. & n. archaic. v.intr. burst into or be in flower. n. blossoming, bloom (in full blow). [OE blõwan f. Gmc]
Whilst not often found today, this word – for me – encapsulates nature at this time of year (Photo-gallery: Buds in Spring).
I came across its use in a song at our regular Thursday a capella singing group:
You have to believe that buds will blow,Believe in grass in days of snow,That’s the reason a bird can sing,On its darkest day it believes in spring
As spring unfolds and buds burst into bloom, bird song also brings the joy of new beginnings.
A sound recording I made in our local valley in 2017 brings something of that joyous spring calling to life.
With the gentle sound of the Eden water flowing in the background, the light was slowly fading and the various songs being sung resonated, as if in preparation for another new day.
After Candlemas the first two weeks of February saw the skies clear, the sun bring warmth and the crocuses bloom.
Primroses, that had started to flower even in January, shone brightly in their profusion.
The icy scenes we’d seen on the Eden water on 1st and 2nd of February (Photo-gallery: Ice on Eden water) melted away in a moment and it seemed the reluctant winter had been pushed away – Spring had arrived. Even the bumble bees agreed!
Not the case; early March has seen the return of cold, windy and wintery weather. Not like 2018, with heavy falls of snow and drifts 6ft deep in places, but the temperatures have dropped dramatically and today light wet snow is falling from a grey sky.
Our seasons are fickle these days and keep us guessing what may arrive next.