My Valentine!

grebeWill this newsletter be the countryman’s slant on romance? Probably not, but it’s a great time of year to be exploring the countryside! It is written that St Valentine was actually executed in 269AD for promoting the Christian ethos of marriage “just” 2 people – the problem being that polygamy was ripe during this time. Moving back a few centuries, February 14th was apparently known as The Feast of Lupercalia during which older boys and girls would draw names from a hat and would be paired off together for a year!! It sounds to me like ancient speed dating!

It’s a fantastic story, but, as a naturalist in the UK, I wonder whether the date is more aptly associated with courtship in our native birds. For many people we are still gripped by winter and springtime seems an age away – but don’t just look at the weather, look at the wildlife: it is beginning the process of procreation right now! Why start the process now though – it IS pelting with rain now and very cold!!

For our birds there it much to be done before raising a family: for a start there are territories to establish – and this means birdsong! You may have already noticed that bird song has increased hugely since January – my morning walk was accompanied by singing or calling robin, nuthatch, great tit, goldcrest and both song and mistle thrush. If the songster is successful, he will both repel trespassing males and attract consenting females and breeding can take place. But again, this is far from an instant process: laying eggs will take place over a week or so; incubating the eggs may take another fortnight and then rearing the chicks to fledging a further fortnight and even then, the fledgling may need feeding for another 3 weeks or so!!

This is where Mother Nature’s version of St Valentine’s Day makes so much sense. Today’s avian courtships will result in masses of extra mouths to feed in mid to late April – coinciding perfectly with a time of sunshine and showers and the abundance of insects and flowers! Clever stuff!!

So, if you fancy honing your birdsong identification skills, it is the perfect time to do so. I lead specialist birdsong rambles from February through the summer months – most popularly in early May when our summer migrants are also adding to the chorus. Interested? Just go to the website, book up or send an enquiry and I’ll be straight in touch!

Enjoy your Valentines Day!!

Jonnie