As I sit here in my office on a dreich Thursday afternoon, as the rain auditions at my window (a Marillion reference there), my thoughts are of a breeding bird survey that I carried out a couple of days ago on a lovely day in north Cumbria, not too far from Cockermouth.
I'd surveyed this particular farm three years ago in 2018, and as I got out of my car a Song Thrush was singing its heart out from a mature Ash tree behind the barn, just as it did three years ago. The typical lifespan of a Song Thrush is three years, with breeding at 1 year. The oldest Song Thrush, or should I say the oldest ringed Song Thrush, is 11 years from ringing. So, it is possible that this is the same bird from 2018, but I think it is equally possible that it isn't! I had another singing Songie elsewhere on the farm, close to the river.
As I set off on my survey, I could hear a male Cuckoo singing, and his 'cuckoo-ing' would accompany me for the whole three and a half hours I was surveying. It's interesting how field guides describe bird song, and out of interest I looked up how the Collins Bird Guide describes the song of the Cuckoo, and it is this; "...the familiar disyllabic call with emphasis on first syllable, 'goo-ko', when excited sometimes trisyllabic". Who knew?
Warblers were a feature of the morning, and in the Sylvia corner were three Blackcaps, a Whitethroat and two Garden Warblers, all singing except one Garden Warbler, that was alarm calling, and to be honest it took me a minute or three to work out that it was an alarm calling Garden Warbler. In the Phylloscopus corner, were ten singing Willow Warblers and two singing Chiffchaffs. Acrocephalus warblers were represented by just a single singing Sedge Warbler close to the river.
There were quite a few Lesser Redpolls around, and at first, I wasn't sure whether some were still moving, but I decided that they were all local birds just whizzing around, as there was plenty of suitable nesting habitat, and in total I recorded fifteen, including a few resplendent males.
There is a good population of House Sparrows at this farm, and they are quite numerous around the farm buildings, but a pair of Tree Sparrows adjacent to an area where vegetables are grown, was a welcome addition to the farm's avifauna.
When I first headed off on my survey, I had forgotten that the River Cocker forms the western boundary of my survey area, and was momentary thrown when I heard the deep, hard call of Goosander, as two flew over the veg patch!
A singing Redstart, croaking Raven and screaming Swift, were duly noted and added to the maps. All in all, a pleasant three and half hours.
And still, the rain auditions at my window.