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Spring in Birdhill 2015

Notice Nature > Albert Nolan Essays

April 6th 2015

A Ramble through the Pollaghs, Community Park & Slí na Coille


The month of April is a fabulous time of the year for walking as the countryside is full of expectation and birdsong echoes from every tree and hedgerow. Insects are emerging in greater numbers and the roadside edges come alive with flowers. Many spring migrants have arrived in the Pollagh and we hear the Chiffchaff singing as we start our walk. Resident birds are also busy defending their territories and resident Blackbirds, Wrens and Robins are singing.
The house that is being built by the entrance has attracted its own wildlife. A lone Pied wagtail is foraging around the grounds and these are closely associated with urban dwellings. High in the trees we see a Great Tit and its strident 'teacher teacher' call is a reflection of its woodland habits. The high pitch carries through the trees allowing birds to communicate with each other and ward off other males from their nesting territories.
The yellow flowers of Lesser Celandine are still around in the damp and shady undergrowth. As we emerge into the light, insects come to life. A Buff-Tailed Bumblebee is busy gathering pollen and the different species of flowers in the Pollagh make ideal feeding grounds. Hoverflies dart away as our shadows pass over them and a Green-Veined White Butterfly is sipping nectar from a Dandelion flower. Another Chiffchaff is singing and there is always two pairs along the trail. I spot a female Chaffinch and she will be soon sitting on her eggs.
The field hedgerows bordering the Pollagh are an important habitat for birds. Birds use them for nesting, shelter and for food like berries, seeds and insects. I listen carefully and hear a Dunnock, Wren, Robin and Blackbird. Overhead a Rook is flying and perched on an ESB power line there is a pair of Reed Buntings. The males are striking birds with a black head and a thick white scarf around their necks. They have long toes and this helps them to make their nests and grip onto the reeds as they move about. They sing from a prominent perch like an ESB wire. The flowering willow tree has attracted a Honeybee and we find three beautiful Small Tortoiseshell Butterflies on the flowers along the walk.
We reach the crossing point and I hear one of my favourite birds of the spring. The male Skylarks are singing high above the meadow and this has to be one of the most glorious songs of the bird world. They hang in the sky for a few minutes before dropping down to the cover of the short grass. They need long grass that is not cut till late in the year in order to successful raise their family. A White- Tailed Bumblebee worker is searching through the Willow flowers.
We reach our picnic spot and a Wren puts on a show for us by singing loudly. We are probably too near to his nest, but he is upstaged by the surprise arrival of a Hare. I catch sight of him as he emerges from some long grass around twenty feet away. I hush the kids and point out the hare. They forget to be quiet and rush to the fence, calling excitedly. The Hare takes flight but I mark his progress for a while as he knocks down the short grass of the meadow. A fabulous encounter and one the kids won't forget for a long time. A pair of Woodpigeons fly overhead.

We reach the last track to the songs of a Dunnocks, Song Thrush and singing of another spring migrant the Willow Warbler. Bees are thankfully plentiful and we see several more Buff-Tailed Bumblebees and one more Honeybee. The hedgerows are also full of birds and we hear a Blackbird and Wren x 5 singing. A Hoverfly is perched on a Willow flower and the Blackthorn is in flower. These emerge before the leaves, where as in the Hawthorn the leaves come out first. Underneath the young leaves of the creeping thistle are starting to grow.
As we drive back over the railway bridge we see a Male Orange-Tip Butterfly. We decide to visit the lovely garden that has been developed by the station. It has a nice balance of formal planting that leads into more natural areas. The trees around the garden are full of birds and we listen to a Robin, Great Tit, Woodpigeon and Wren singing. Four Rooks are flying overhead and they build their nests in the tall trees around the village.
We cross over and walk through the literary trail. Lesser Celandine carpets the floor of the woods and Honeysuckle binds up through the trees. There is a wide variety of tree from tall Horsechestnut and Oak to smaller Hawthorns. In a Scots Pine tree we find one rook nest but I think this will increase as the year marches on. We stumble out onto the main road and the verge of the roadside is dotted with colourful wildflowers. Dandelions, Bush vetch, Violet, Speedwell. Bramble, Cow parsley, Ivy, Common dock and Lords & Ladies make this a mini haven for insects.
We cross the road for a quick visit to the community park. This is an oasis for people and wildlife and what is more impressive is that it is situated by a very busy main road. You can tell how a community is faring by the diversity of its inhabitants. Under the trees, Wood Anemones are in flower and we hear a Blackbird, Great Tit wren and Wren singing. There is a small Rookery behind the pond and there are 5 nests in the Ash and 2 in the Scots pine. As we leave we hear a Dunnock singing and catch a Green Veined White Butterfly. As we reach the car, we hear our last bird of the day, a Chiffchaff, calling in the trees around the railway station.

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