The boys are back

Saturday afternoon in Yarner Wood: bright sunshine and Pied Flycatchers. Summer is starting.

Yarner Wood is our local patch, and we visit the reserve throughout the year. But our first visit in April is always special, as we wonder whether the Pied Flycatchers are back. It was no different last weekend. The car park was unusually full (we later met the guided tour) and the weather not warm. Some years leaf break will have started; this year the oaks were still bare branched.

At the hide very little, but Caroline suddenly fixed on a male Pied Flycatcher. This was the only bird we saw from the hide, although there was birdsong in the treetops. We took our usual route, along and up, and as we reached Flycatcher Alley, nest boxes every other tree, we heard and then saw more Pied Flycatchers. All male, and in the course of the afternoon about eight in all. Reading the Warden’s notes later, they have been back at Yarner since 8 April.

And as well as the Pied Flycatchers, a Raven high over the wood, a Bullfinch, Greater Spotted Woodpeckers drumming, and all the usual suspects: Chiffchaffs, Great, Blue and Coal Tits, Blackbirds, Wrens, Robins, Nuthatches and Treecreepers. Time stands still in Yarner Wood and by the time we left it was well past six o’clock.

The next day we were having a birthday tea with my mother-in-law. Her garden was alive with bird song, and she knows Summer is back because the Swallows, who have been nesting in her garage for the past 15 or so years, have returned. We stood and watched them, a fast glide and down below the lintel and up and out of sight.

All we need now are the Swifts.

Easter running

Spring has crept up on us this year. The last week has not been warm, and we seem to have had more than our share of rain, with only a little sun.

The house this Easter weekend has been full of running: not us but the girls (or at least three of them). The Great West Run, Exeter’s half-marathon, is a month away and all three are going to be home to run for Cancer Research: if you want to sponsor them you’ll find their page on Just Giving.

A savage downpour yesterday morning saw two of them pounding the track round Mardon Down. This morning was more ambitious: just shy of ten miles from the Hennock Reservoirs home. I dropped them at 9.00 and they were home as the Church clock struck 11.00. They are all pleased with how today has gone, but to beat two hours on 2 May will be tough.

We walked part of their route this morning on Friday, starting at the Trenchford car park and taking the road round to Tottiford then up to the county road, sharp right down to Kennick, across the dam and back along the road. Five miles of easy walking (although gumboots weren’t the best choice of footwear), and the chance to see Spring here: Swallows and House Martins over Trenchford, the first we have seen this year, and the earliest we have seen them in the 13 years we have lived here.

And just so we know Spring is indeed here, we heard the unmistakeable tapping of death watch beetle in the shutters in the study. This, I hope, is the last part of the house which is still home to them.