I was out on the river yesterday, paddling the canoe on a day of sudden warmth. Spring officially starts with the equinox — this year March 20 — but that be damned: there were already buds on the willows and the alders and new growth of nettles and ground ivy on the banks.
We paddled past a stand of willows set back a little way from the river — and it was then that I heard something suspicious. Then again. And again. Mr Bond, they have a saying in Chicago: once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action.
Words of Goldfinger: and there with the third repetition was incontrovertible evidence of enemy action: action against the winter that’s enemy to us all. Here was a great tit, singing his spring song with unopposable vigour.
A little further downriver a male and a female marsh harrier were cruising together over the water: just…. interested. No need to get over-excited just yet, but they found each other’s proximity… interesting. We stopped paddling to watch them and then, a few hundred yards off, the clincher. A sudden machinegun rattle. No, not more Bond: it was the drumming of a great spotted woodpecker.
This is a bird that prefers percussion to vocal music, and the brisk, uncluttered roll is a performance designed to attract a mate and establish a territory – a territory in which breeding can take place. A territory in which spring can happen.
When the bird had drummed for the third time I decided it was safe to paddle on. Winter was looking worried.
Some links to the birdsounds: