Last Saturday was a lovely day here in Wicklow. The sun (remember that big glowing thing that we used to see in the sky from time to time?) shone and it was a calm, still windless day. The sky was blue…such a welcome change from the dark grey that we have been accustomed to in recent weeks.
We had some trees that we needed to plant and lots of hedging to get in. It was a perfect day for such garden work. There was no denying that there was a feeling of spring in the air. Snowdrops were emerging from their winter slumber and lots of daffodils, planted in early winter, were bursting through the sodden ground.
And in the stillness of the air, bird song was all around. Robins, Dunnocks and Wrens were hard at it…singing their hearts out to proclaim their respective territories. It was as if they were welcoming the sunshine. It would be easy to be fooled into thinking that the arrival of February marked the arrival of spring. Of course, that is not the case. No matter what anyone tells you, spring certainly does not arrive until March (and the Met Office agrees).
Sunday was dreadful again…windy, dull and showery and today there is a storm-force gale blowing. This morning, myself and Suzi (our Springer Spaniel) got soaked in a deluge as we walked the coast overlooking the East Coast Nature Reserve. The wind was freezing and the reserve was filled with Lapwing, Wigeon and Teal. No, there is no doubting the fact that winter is still firmly here and that February can be one of the coldest winter months.
Looking at the feeders also adds to the winter feeling in our garden. We have become Siskin City! Siskins, those colourful small cousins of Greenfinches have been around here for the past two months. We heard them frequently flying over but rarely have they stopped until this week. Today we have 12 birds on our feeders directly outside the window. The black-capped males are particularly bright and are glowing with yellows and greens. Watching them feed upside-down reminds me that these birds are often hanging in that position as they feed in birch and alder. You will never see a Greenfinch hanging upside-down like that!
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about ‘winter thrushes’and, like them, if you could speak ‘Siskin’, you would probably find that they too are speaking Finnish or Russian. While we have Siskins as resident breeding birds, the chances are that the birds on the feeders outside today have also travelled a long way to be here with us. They are every bit as long-distant migrants as Swallows are.
Speaking of which, it is most likely that, as I write on this windy Feb day, that the Swallows born here last summer are starting to leave their wintering grounds in Southern Africa and beginning to move north. I have to confess that, for me, seeing my first Swallow of the year is when I know that spring has truly arrived.