A flock of Bramblings, 60 plus in number, is loafing noisily in the tops of the roadside beeches as I set out with the dogs. I suspect that they have been feeding on what remains of last autumn’s beechmast, tucking in to what has been overlooked by the Woodpigeons and Chaffinches that have been feeding here for many weeks. I sense that these Bramblings will soon be off, heading back to breeding grounds that lie hundreds of miles away to the east, and I picture them laying down fat reserves ahead of this great seasonal journey. Their passing, just as the first Chiffchaffs and Sand Martins are arriving, hints at the dynamic nature of our avian communities. What suits one species for summer may suit another during the winter. Things are on the move in this season of change.
The Roe Deer are still here though, all deep brown winter coats and white rumps. Unless they end up in the sights of the ranger’s gun, they will remain throughout the year. Ever inquisitive as they move off upon my approach they will stop and turn to look back, taking me in as they do most mornings. Do they recognise me or am I just another human wandering in their patch of forest? They certainly seem unfazed, keeping a modest but polite distance between us.
The volume of bird song has increased over recent days and there is evidence that birds are now settled on territories. Three different Yellowhammer males have been singing for a couple of weeks now and I have a good idea of where their individual territories begin and end. One is paired but the others still appear to be single and I shall have to see what develops. A pair of Mistle Thrushes rattle harshly at a Carrion Crow that is taking too much interest in the tree where I suspect the thrushes have an active nest. While the nest is out of the reach of any ground-based predators, the crows will be an ever-present threat and the tenacity of the parent thrushes will surely be put to the test if they are to rear young successfully.
It is a good time of the year to be out in the forest, the sense of anticipation as the season begins to wind up into action. Summer migrants will soon arrive in growing numbers and then there will be a blur of activity as plants flower, eggs hatch and insects emerge. It is a time of the year that fills me with optimism; even if I set out feeling a bit low, by the end of the walk I am happy, smiling and full of the joys of spring.