To be naked in the open air on a warm spring morning, with nothing but the birds and the bees for company, is one of the more pleasant things, known to man. It seems as if we were all meant to be together, without all the fuss and stresses of modern civilisation. With ground noise at a bare minimum one can really appreciate the natural sounds that Mother Nature makes, between 4 and 5.30am. Of course it’s not so pleasant if you’re in a tent, nursing a hangover from the night before, but if you’re clear headed you can hear the dawn chorus, as it breaks, in all its glory and really appreciate, all that goes on at that time in the morning. At Greenglades, in common with many woodland areas there is a wealth of noise and a good variety of birds and other animals that also visit regularly, throughout the day.
One is normally awoken by the Rooks and Wood Pigeons tap dancing on top of the chalet, then comes the singing or squawking, depending how you class this early morning noise. Next to appear are the grey squirrels, as the swing merrily on the “Weaver Log Bird Feeder” which are, in all honesty, supposed to be squirrel proof but for a time the birds miss out as the squirrels have breakfast. After this the Pied Wagtails, Great tits and chaffinches take turns feeding on the fat balls, before these are replaced by feeding Starlings and Goldfinches. The Pied Wagtail is easily spotted, as its name suggests, by its constantly wagging black and white tail.
The male can sometimes appear to be pure black, and the female usually has a dark grey back. Usually to be seen in small groups, but they can sometimes gather in large flocks, and will roost commonly in reeds and orchards. As for the Great Tit, it is large for a tit at 12.5–14.0 cm (4.9–5.5 in) in length, and has a distinctive appearance that makes it easy to recognise. It has a bluish-black crown, black neck, throat, bib and head, and white cheeks and ear coverts. The breast is bright lemon-yellow and there is a broad black mid-line stripe running from the bib to vent. There is a dull white spot on the neck turning to greenish yellow on the upper nape.
The rest of the nape and back are green tinged with olive. The wing-coverts are green, the rest of the wing is bluish-grey with a white-wing-bar. The tail is bluish grey with white outer tips. The plumage of the female is similar to that of the male except that the colours are overall duller; the bib is less intensely black, as is the line running down the belly, which is also narrower and sometimes broken. Young birds are like the female, except that they have dull olive-brown napes and necks, greyish rumps, and greyer tails, with less defined white tips.
The chaffinch is the UK’s second commonest breeding bird, and is arguably the most colourful of the UK’s finches. Its patterned plumage helps it to blend in when feeding on the ground and it becomes most obvious when it flies, revealing a flash of white on the wings and white outer tail feathers. It does not feed openly on bird feeders – it prefers to hop about under the bird table or under the hedge. You’ll usually hear chaffinches before you see them, with their loud song and varied calls. The Rook is about the same size as the Carrion Crow but is more untidy in its appearance.
The plumage is all black with a reddish or purplish gloss but around the base of its beak – nostrils and chin – is bare skin. The untidy appearance arises from the slightly peaked head and the thigh feathers, which look like baggy trousers. The bill and legs are black. The Rook’s bill is longer and more pointed than that of the Carrion Crow. Just to add to the confusion, juvenile Rooks do not have the bare skin around the base of the bill and so look very much like a Carrion Crow, but purplish gloss to plumage and baggy trousers remain diagnostic.
Watching from inside the Green house, which acts as an excellent hide, we observe everything going on out on the lawns and in the trees. There are moorhens pecking at the turf, our friend the Rook reappears forever circling, he then almost nervously walks around before flying off with some pieces of bread, discarded from the day before. Occasionally on the earlier days of spring, we spot our favourite ‘the robin’ flying from tree to tree. This is not the only time the animals come out to play, as in the dusk of evening; we often spot a rabbit or two and maybe a hare as well. Other species are more elusive to spot, with the naked eye but you can always hear owls, foxes and even woodpeckers in the trees or around the surrounding countryside.