Return of the European goldfinch

Apparently, some European goldfinches migrate southwards in the winter, but others don’t.

We’ve missed them, these brightly coloured little birds, though chaffinches, sparrows, dunnocks and the blackbirds have been here throughout the winter. I kept them nourished from the feeders that are designed to keep jackdaws and rats out, though the unwanted creatures are getting better at filleting out morsels even so. But late yesterday morning two matching goldfinches were checking out the lawn and we hope they’ll stay again.

All over the garden, birds are tending their nests: across our direct line of vision, the male blackbird flits to land for a reccy on the picnic table, before carrying its worm burden in to the Korean pine (a Christmas tree rescue) where its nest is hidden. Deep in the hedgerows the smaller birds nest, erupting into chatter as I moved along yanking out the nettles a couple days ago. Deep also in our thick building walls a starling family with very noisy chicks awakens visitors in the spare room with their 5am importunings.

Meanwhile, the Barnvelder hens have forsaken their broodiness for the while; two eggs lay in the nest cooling for my retrieval while their layers enjoyed a dust bath outside in the diatomaceous earth I strewed fresh. We’re not sure why the collared doves have returned, but they seem to have replaced the cooing pigeons, which is all very well with me. Sometimes, high overhead, drifting on an updraft, or buoyed by the cool air blowing off the fellside, a hawkish predator sails by. Also out in the hay meadows the plangent cry of the curlew haunts the open spaces. But mostly all is peace and calm in the garden.

A sudden squall of rain curtails the bright chirps that startle us when it stops. The sunlight returns, intense in its brilliance, and the bird parade proceeds again before our eyes.

These delights of a May morning are a great joy of our retired lifestyle. We can even forgive the raindrops that spattered the drying clothes.

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