Friday, 20 April 2012

No going back now

Late March, you'll remember, was unseasonably, unnaturally warm. And despite everyone saying 'of course, it won't last', we all secretly hoped it just might. There have been other years when it has, but this year wasn't one of them. Now we have had three weeks of unseasonably cold weather, which looks set to continue into May - almost a return to winter.

Almost - but not quite. Because spring isn't really about the weather at all. It's about the light. However cold it feels, the Sun continues to rise that bit earlier, and set a few minutes later, every day. And however hard it rains, the spring migrants that set out from Africa many weeks ago, prompted partly by the dying of the light in the south, are still arriving on our shores for their summer sojourn.

This week the willow warblers appeared in the village. Despite travelling up to 25,000 kilometres to get here from sub-Saharan Africa they still had the energy to announce their arrival, still splashing those waterfall songs around the scrubby, railway embankment trees where they hang out here. I hardly ever see one. They blend into the tangled hawthorns perfectly, with their licheny green, grey and yellow plumage. But their song is one of the loudest and most distinctive in the dawn chorus, and like the voice of a ventriloquist seems to come from everywhere and nowhere at once.

The dawn chorus - yet another marker of the season that the weather can't take away from us. Rain or shine birds need to advertise for a mate, declare their territories, warn off rivals. So rain or shine, the dawn chorus  shouts 'we're here; we're alive; it's spring!' And who am I to disagree?

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