Monday 16 July 2018

Spring is the season for sprogs and squawks

Swallow in flight. Photo: Getty
Swallow in flight. Photo: Getty

Fiona O'Connell

With April well under way, we've swapped Easter risings for swallows swooping.

I spotted the first of these ferocious little fliers less than a fortnight ago when I was in Northern Ireland, where they sky-dived and darted like musical notes across the dunes at Portballintrae. Which was the very same day that my dog sitter texted to say that swallows had just breezed over the bridge.

While these birds act as a barometer for beckoning summer, spring is still very much in the air. Which means that this is the season for sprogs.

Certainly, the resident riverbank pair of blackbirds have been performing relentless relays to the food stations in my yard, filling up before the arrival of their chicks. The male, with his amazing orange-rimmed eyes and matching beak, appears almost the instant that the increasingly rotund and brown-feathered female has had her fill.

Though it's not just the birds and the bees but also human beings who are full of the joys of juveniles this weather. My spaniel's saviour, vet Eoin Wilson, became a father for the first time only months ago.

Meanwhile local healthstore owner Edel's three-year-old son is getting ready to follow in his sister's footsteps this day next week

With his hands stuffed into the pockets of his diminutive duffel coat, and beaming a smile from one wet behind the ear to the other, Evan looked for all the world like a two-foot tall farmer when I last saw him. His Spider-Man bag was already packed to the gills with essential snacks to sustain him on the epic sponsored walk from his kindergarten to the not really so nearby playground.

Clearly feeling on top of the world, even if only taking up a tiny portion of it, the travelling toddler was singing a peculiar little tune.

He's not the only young one who likes yodelling. Apart from the full-bellied blackbird's exquisite singing every sunset, a baby rook has taken to hitting - or rather hammering - the high notes outside my back door.

Most likely he is related to the rook that I managed to save one winter solstice, for that sooty black senior still visits from time to time. He is unfailingly polite, flapping off on his huge wings at the slightest sound of my approach.

But this young rook (should that be rookie?) has no such qualms about not keeping quiet. He regularly perches atop a wooden pole out back, where he performs what I hesitate to call a song, though it fulfils the criteria, involving as it does both noise and rhythm, even if the sound consists of a crescendo of croaky caws followed by a tone-deaf squawk.

Then again, the judges at this country town's X Factor competition - which takes place in The Salmon Pool pub in less than a week's time - might relish a bit of 'rook and roll'.

Sunday Independent

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