My only small grumble is that I don't think they sound like they are saying 'chiffchaff' at all. Perhaps ours speak with a different inflection to everyone else's, but here they definitely say 'chiff chiff chaff' or sometimes 'chiff chaff chiff'
The Great Tits (queue lots of dodgy search engine results popping up now- the thought of someone putting in a raunchy search term and getting directed here always makes me smile. They must wonder what on earth has gone wrong...) are competing with them, trying to out do all the chiff-chaff-chaffing with their squeaky eey-orr eey-orr eey-orring.
And behind the chiffchaffs and the great tits are the greenfinches, who brrrrrrr constantly. Overlay that with blue tits quarreling, robins singing their liquid songs, pigeons 'my toe bleeds bettying', blackbirds 'pink pink pinking', dunnocks warbling, wrens yelling, thrushes bubbling, mallards laughing, geese exclaiming, sparrows chirruping and black caps singing, throw in a handful of bumblebees buzzing ponderously and the odd hoverfly zipping about, and you'll get a pretty good sense of what it's like to be here during the day. And if you can't do that, here is a video I just shot to let you all hear it for yourselves....
I am not complaining- lord knows I'd far rather listen to birdsong than people noise - but when you're trying to extract one type of song out of the mass and learn it, well, let's just say it's not easy. Even the app on the phone sometimes gives up and pretends its a 'low quality recording' because it can't cope with all the different calls.
I met the lovely Jenny at Magdalen this morning to do my first ever butterfly transect (well, a trial run because it was foggy and cold and flutters don't much care for foggy and cold). We ended up having to walk through a field of bulls, which is not high on my list of 'things to do before you're 50.' I hid behind Jenny, who is a farmer's daughter, a farmer's wife and a farmer's mother, and so is well used to cows. The fact that she's just had a double hip-replacement and walks with a walking stick should in no way colour your view of her ability to keep my safe from a herd of rampaging bulls.
In the event, they didn't rampage at all, just stood staring at us as if trying to work out what we were. Just being stared was enough for me- it took every inch of my self-possession to walk calmly past them and not do what I felt like doing, which was to run for the nearest fence screaming hysterically with my arms waving about in the air and dive over it.
Magdalen covers over a hundred acres, part at least of this is natural chalk downland that has never been farmed, making it a rare and precious environment. There is a large colony of Chalkhill Blue butterflies on the hill (which I was lucky enough to see last year- literally clouds rising up from your feet as you went through them- bliss). Other areas are slowly being returned to chalk downland by scraping off the top soil and sowing seeds brought in from Salisbury Plain. They are also running a kind of experiment by having fresh areas of chalk laid down specifically to sow kidney vetch, which is the sole food plant of the Small Blue Butterfly. Incidentally, these pics were taken with the new iphone. What d'you reckon? I think the quality's pretty damn good.
|Chalk waiting to age a bit before kidney vetch seeds are sown|
There were also hundreds of cowslips growing in the meadows on the hill. I've never seen so many in one place before. These too have been sown but have got on so well they are now spreading of their own accord.
I'm really looking forward to doing my transects. I have the easier section as my ID skills need improvement, but even so, Jenny said I should see peacocks, red admirals, tortoiseshells, small blue, holly blue, chalkhill blue, brimstone, clouded yellow, painted lady, commas and possibly others beside (including, maybe, the brown argus, which looks an awful lot like your everyday blue to me...).
The Field Studies Council produces a range of really useful fold out leaflets that cover all sorts of countryside subjects, so I've just ordered a few to help me when I'm out walking. They are excellent value at three quid a pop so worth checking out.
Right-o, I'm off for a run as I haven't been for a week and I can see my middle expanding as I type. It's my birthday tomorrow, M is taking me to the theatre later in the week to celebrate. I am really looking forward to it as we haven't been in ages, so no doubt I shall be telling you all about it in due course.
Have a lovely evening all,