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Nature Springs into Life

Notice Nature > Albert Nolan Essays

Nature Springs Into Life.

We arrive at the Pollagh to the backdrop of glorious sunshine. Memories of our last visit, when bitter winds followed us throughout our walk, are soon forgotten. A Wren greets us with its exuberant song and a Pied Wagtail is hanging around the gravel paths of the new house. Signs of the awakening countryside are everywhere as plants and birds respond to the increased length of the day.
Birds are defending their territories and they try and do this by singing and aggressive display. Fighting uses a lot of valuable energy and there is also the risk of a serious injury. Two Blackbirds are calling to each other across the path and this must form the boundary of their territory. A Robin is also singing and they can share the same patch as a Blackbird because the Robin builds its nest up high and the Blackbird will keep its home a few feet off the ground.
Plants too are on the move and the fresh leaves of cow parsley are peeking up through last year's leaf litter. Above them the fluffy white catkins of the willow are just emerging. This is one off the best trees for wildlife. Bumblebees are attracted to the flowers and dozens of species of insect live and feed on the Willow. As I watch I see a pair of Great Tits carefully picking their way along the slender branches and eating the insects and their larva. Deep in the trees two more Robins are singing and I hear the mournful song of the Mistle Thrush. This is also known as the "storm cock" as it can be heard singing from a prominent perch even during strong winds and driving rain.
We walk on and see two more male Blackbirds. They are squaring off on the path and do not notice us till we are nearly on top of them. They temporarily forget their differences and fly off noisily. Birds have occupied the entire length of the field hedgerows. We hear two Wrens, a Dunnock, Robin and Blacking singing. Another pair of great tits are feeding in the roadside trees.
A small flock of birds are perched in a tree and through the binoculars I identify them as Meadow Pipits. They call noisily and disappear into a nearby field. One takes flight and flies high into the sky. He hangs there for a moment and parachutes down to the ground continuously singing. A Robin joins in with a song and a female Chaffinch is calling from a tree.
I am thrilled to find a pair of Stonechats. They were badly hit during the recent hard winters but the population is starting to bounce back. Their call sounds like two stones been banged together and they nest on rough ground and in young plantations.
We reach the crossing point and pause for our picnic. I am entranced by a displaying pair of Skylarks. They are balanced in the sky around 80 feet off the ground and 20 feet apart. Their wings are beating furiously as they try to maintain their positon and their song spreads out over the meadow. One bird falters and descends while the other hangs on for another few minutes. Skylarks need areas of tall grass and late cutting so that they have time to raise their family. The Pollagh is a stronghold of this species as the surrounding landscape is grazed intensively.
A Dunnock and Wren are singing in the developing woodland and three Meadow Pipits are following each other through the grass.
We reach the last track and listen to the songs of a Wren, Robin x 2, Goldcrests and Chaffinches. The last surprise is a pair of Reed Buntings perched on an Alder tree.
The diversity of the Pollagh is based on its wide range of habitats found in the one area. From grassland to field hedgerows, tall trees to the humblest dock each combination off plants provides food, shelter and opportunities for birds and countless insects.

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