A Chilly Start by Andrew Cooper
Frosty mornings in March are not something we are used to down in the depths of Devon. Perhaps up on Dartmoor but not here closer to the sea. Our farm is just a couple of miles inland from the south coast, about a minute away as the peregrine flies. So we often see one of these fast flying falcons hurtling high above in pursuit of a pigeon. But for me it the sound of spring that always gladdens my heart. Especially the fluting notes of a Mistle Thrush taking the lead in a feathered orchestra.
The chorus can be found on a hill north of the house, capped by clumps of tall trees, now linked by a new hedge we planted a few years ago. Here, a rookery is in full voice. Its volume depends on the wind direction but the excited clamour only last a while, until they get down to what must be the more boring business of twenty four hour incubation. Between the crescendos of rooks, the drumming of Great Spotted Woodpeckers echoes through the woods. Closer to home, Great Tits give a passable imitation of a squeaky bicycle pump. And all this before breakfast! Whoever talked of the peace and quiet of the countryside obviously did not live where we do.
I sometimes wonder who is training who, as hoards of squabbling small birds excitedly queue for the bird table. More persistent is a spectacular cock pheasant crowing and flapping its wings at first light to attract our attention. The number and variety of birds at the table never ceased to surprise me, until one morning..as I rounded the corner of the house carrying a large cup of seed, I was greeted by our biggest visitor ever. Sitting on top of the bird table, rustling its magnificent feathers, was a peacock! I suppose we were fortunate that he did not arrive with friends. He stayed for a few weeks, fanning his tail at anything that took his fancy, while eating us out of house and home, before continuing his quest for a mate elsewhere.