Friday 21 March 2014

Spring of Teal 21st March 2014

After a restless night of tossing and turning trying to get comfortable but failing miserably due to a damaged shoulder, the dawn finally came and the sun broke through illuminating the bedroom and radiating welcoming light into my consciousness.

It was impossible to be downcast on such a morning so I rose and resolved to do something, anything to distract myself from the pain in my shoulder. I consulted RBA and a male Green winged Teal at a place called Morton Bagot in deepest Warwickshire instantly appealed. It was not too far, about an hour's drive from my home, deep in the Warwickshire countryside and was unlikely to draw a big crowd. Ideal.

I set off just after nine and once through a tangle of roadworks at Stratford on Avon I found myself turning off the main road and driving down silent and for the most part deserted high hedged roads in search of Morton Bagot and Church Farm to be precise, which is where a footpath led off across the farmland to some pools created especially for wildlife. The pools in fact were no more than flooded areas at the lower end of some marshy fields.

The footpath actually ran through the farmyard and after some difficulty finding it I was set in the right direction by the helpful farmer and found myself traversing a field full of sheep and new born lambs to an ancient gate which once  I had passed through, led to a hedgeline through which you could view the pool in the adjacent field.

Aaaahh or should that be Baaahh!
It was a beautiful spring day as I did my best BoPeep impression by tiptoeing past sleepy sheep and lambs sunning themselves on the grass. Skylarks poured down aerial waterfalls of notes from the sky. Individual larks finished with singing, their ardour temporarily dissipated, descended on quivering wings to finally swoop to earth and become invisible on the ground whilst others ascending from the ground struck up phrase after phrase of silver notes as they headed heavenwards. A ChiffChaff sang monotonously from a bare Ash and Chaffinches rolled out their song of rattling notes from the Blackthorn hedgerow. A Blackbird, for me the sound of Spring, crooned its lazy contralto  notes, so smooth, effortless and melancholic. Spring was most definitely on its way.

I could feel the Spring manifesting itself around me in a myriad of shapes and forms. An imperceptible shift of spirit, a hint of optimism and longer days was tangible although the trees show little green yet, but the journey here had been accompanied by banks of daffodils, golden fanfares of yellow by many a roadside verge and garden path. On shady, sun dappled banks in sheltered by ways the subtler yellow flowers of Primrose, shone like constellations of pale brimstone stars in the dead winter grass and leaves.

It was indeed good to be alive. I looked through my scope at the pool which had attracted quite a bit of birdlife. Mallard, Common Teal and a lone male Wigeon hunkered down in the sedge by the water's edge, sheltered from the wind. Up to twelve Common Snipe were scattered along the  pool's edge together with a constantly restless group of Lapwing, The latter, unable to control the rising tide of their hormones, flew at each other and constantly bickered. Two Little Ringed Plovers pattered around the muddy margins, often alarmed at the Lapwing's behaviour and never stopping feeding for more than a few seconds. My first true Spring migrants. I counted one Green Sandpiper, then another and another and yet two more wading through the shallow pool bringing a total of five. Cheewitt cheewitt, they suddenly rose in noisy alarm and flew around the pool before settling again in a close group, on some clods of earth by the water, bowing and jinking. Nervous and edgy.

The male Green winged Teal was feeding with two Common Teal unconcerned at the brief sandpiper frenzy going on around it. Peace descended as forty or so Common Teal now fed or lazed around the shallow pool. Where had this Green winged Teal come from I wonder? I watched as he convulsed and displayed to a female Common Teal, standing up on end in the water, tipping his bill downwards to his breast and then dropping back down on the water, raising his rear, all in the matter of a few seconds. The female showed little interest. The vertical white lines, one on each side of the breast were very obvious, contrasting with the other male Common Teals that showed a horizontal white line between upper and lower body.

An hour spent here, alone, provided therapy both physical and mental, distracting me from the current problems with my shoulder.

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