Looking out of my study window on this bright, frosty morning, beyond our big boundary hedge, are three or four Blackthorn bushes, covered in white blossom, sparkling in the sun.
Our Blackbird nesting in the clematis to the right of the kitchen window is sitting tightly and suddenly wildlife everywhere is feeling the pull of the change of season from winter to spring.
Last Friday, the field across the river was covered with Redwings. They are exquisite birds belonging to the Thrush family. They have a distinctive white stripe over the eye and another running from their beak to just below their eye. On the upper side of their flanks they have a gorgeous patch of rusty-red feathers which extends into the feathers under the wing. There must have been at least two hundred of them feasting on earthworms preparing for their journey north to their breeding grounds in Scandinavia. I looked again on Saturday morning and they had gone. There were two good gobbets of news from The Hawk and Owl Trust reserve at Sculthorpe Moor on Saturday morning. The pair of Peregrine Falcons that have occupied our nest box on the spire of Norwich Cathedral have laid their second egg. The third and fourth eggs, which will make up the full clutch, should be completed by next Thursday. The first egg should hatch on about 27th April.
The other heartening news is the return of the female Marsh Harrier familiarly known as “Mrs H”. She first appeared at our reserve in 2004. She laid a clutch of eggs but torrential rain shortly afterwards washed out the nest. Undeterred she re-laid and raised 3 young. Year after year she has returned to our reed bed and raised young.
In the summer of 2008 Nigel Middleton, the Hawk and Owl Trust’s Conservation Manager for East Anglia, decided that we’d try and put a mini-camera in “Mrs H’s” nest. There was an anxious wait to see if she would accept it. Thankfully she did and as a result visitors to the reserve were able to watch close ups of the young being fed projected onto a large screen in the Education Centre. We were worried whether the smallest chick would survive, and viewers of the BBC Television series Springwatch were equally concerned. On the third evening there was a storm and the camera was hit by lightning. Had the female and the three chicks survived? Two days later we were able to reassure viewers with pictures of the three chicks being fed. Over the next few weeks, much to our surprise, the ‘runt’ put on weight dramatically and turned out to be a female much bigger than the other two chicks who were males.
“Mrs H” has done us proud. Year after year she’s returned from her wintering grounds, which could be as far away as Africa, to nest at our reserve. To date she has reared 47 young and now she’s back, in pristine adult plumage, to rear another brood of chicks. “Hurrah” for “Mrs H”!
Photos Copyright: Andy Thompson