Tuesday, June 04, 2019

A Hammer Made of Feathers

"Och, It's easy up here.  If you see a chiffchaff it's a willow warbler."  It's funny how things stick in your memory. I was in my teens, we were on a guided walk at Insh Marshes reserve in the Highlands and the RSPB warden was explaining to another visitor that he had never seen a chiffchaff in the Highlands, so there was no need to worry about telling them from willow warblers.  Even though we do hear them in South Wales, to this day the sound of a willow warbler triggers memories of our annual trip to Aviemore.

So that's why a trip up to see Kay's parents got me thinking about Scotland.  I've written before about the wildlife that has inhabited the old coalmine tip site, I always grab the chance to go up there with the camera' and this year the first song I heard was the falling ripple of a willow warbler.

But much as I was pleased to hear it, my real target took a little more finding.  Just as indelibly the song associated in my mind with this old coal tip in Yorkshire is that of the yellowhammer. That first afternoon all I heard were contact calls of birds flitting between the bushes. Getting up early on a misty morning the next day though the bread and cheese song reassured me the yellowhammers were still around and soon  I found some singing and feeding.  I would have loved a better sky though.

They weren't quite so  consistent in the song perches they used as I recalled so I spent a fair bit of time standing around pointing my lens at birdless branches, being barked at by various dogs (dogs don't like tripods do they?), assuring passers-by that the canary on my camera screen was a resident British bird and not a freshly arrived migrant from Africa and being repeatedly stared at by a whitethroat who obviously did have a programmed song perch route I was standing too near.

“Silence fell like a hammer made of feathers.”  Terry Pratchett

No comments: