Sunday, 21 March 2010


A symphony of birdsong has been following me through woodland, heath, allotments and gardens over the past two weeks. Is it my imagination or are the birds calling louder and more determinedly this spring, after a long hard winter? I'm certainly recognising more of their calls after persevering with CDs of British birdsong - picking out the laughter of the green woodpecker, the lyrical song of the blackbird and the repetitive plea of the great tit.

Heathland was never my favourite habitat but I'm being forced to revise my feelings about it as I work on a low wetland heath into the spring. The site is alive with tiny lizards waking up from hibernation. I almost stumbled over a tiny woodmouse peeping out of its hole in a heap of dead bracken and we eyeballed each other for a second before it scuttled away.

As I raked up dead bracken last week I felt as if I were sitting in the middle of an avian orchestra, with green woodpeckers playing the melody, greater spotted woodpeckers drumming the percussion, and a curlew trilling its solo performance from the sky.

I've just started reading Rachel Carson's Silent Spring - long overdue in my natural history education - and I guess I have her (and her many followers) to thank for saving birds and so many other creatures from the deadly potion of DDT.

Much to my surprise and joy, I have just landed my first part-time job in countryside management and will be helping to look after an ancient common and newer country park near my home. Water voles are thought to be in residence on one of the sites - how I'd love to see one.

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