The Clerk in the Country

Friday 22nd September 2023

New neighbours

During these last weeks of summer my nearest neighbours have been a pair of house martins, busily raising a family in the garage.  It was a joy to watch their aerial skill as they darted around at roof level, gathering insects and taking turns to swoop through the raised door to their nest.  After a little chorus of chittering from the chicks, the parent bird would emerge at speed for another few minutes of darting and wheeling.

Earlier in the year a bird of a rather different sort moved into the neighbourhood.  First spotted from the bathroom window perching on the roof ridge of an agricultural store, its upright stance and hooked bill gave it the silhouette of the kestrel which sometimes uses that vantage point.  Unlike the kestrel this bird dwarfed the wood pigeons and even a crow further along the roof.  One or two pigeons attempted cautious dive bombing while blackbirds chittered an announcement of imminent danger, but in the course of repeated visits they learned that the buzzard’s attention was confined to the young rabbits in the field below.  It was when it lifted itself into the sky on its broad serrated wings that its size could really be appreciated.  It was simply the second-largest bird in the sky around here.

I had a good sighting of the largest last week.  While I was watching a group of house martins, perhaps including the young ones which left their garage nest in early September, a heron flew through them.  The contrast was striking; the martins, wingspan 10 or 11 inches, wheeling around the huge heron, with its wingspan of 6 feet.   As it solemnly pursued its unwavering course the heron gave three or four loud croaking calls as if demanding respect for its size, strength and fearsome bill.  Confident in their agility, the martins darted heedlessly to and fro in its path.