Monday, 5 May 2014

Ruthless Gluttons at Roswell

An enjoyable few hours down at Roswell Pits today. Listened to, and later watched, a Cuckoo from Cuckoo Bridge (where else?). Personally, I find it hard to tire of his wonderful call, despite it being, I suppose, somewhat monotonous. An equally lovely sound, to me at least, and another evocative harbinger of summer, is the purr of the Turtle Dove, and there was one in song behind the 'lily-pad pit' (by Cooke's). Despite both birds being heralds of warmer days to come they seem to have been viewed in rather different lights in times past. The Turtle Dove, like doves in general, was a symbol of constant love, with Chaucer mentioning in his 'The Parliament of Fowles', "The wedded turtel with hir herte trewe". The Cuckoo, of course, gets a rather poorer press, what with its hoodwinking of the proxy-parent birds, 'murder' of its nest-mates and being caught up with ideas of cuckoldry. According to Mark Cocker in 'Birds Britannica', there was once a suggestion that the young Cuckoo would eventually eat the birds which had raised it and Chaucer, again in his 'Parliament of Fowles', has the Merlin call the Cuckoo "Thou mordrer of the heysugge (Hedge Sparrow) on the braunche that broghte thee forth, thou rewtheless glotoun"... Nonetheless, hearing one always brightens up my day, but no doubt the Reed Warblers down at Roswell Pits are less keen!

As a child I spent hour after hour poring over the four volumes (one for each season) of the Ladybird book series 'What to Look For in....', with text by E.L. Grant-Watson and wonderful illustrations by C. F. Tunnicliffe. The picture featuring a Turtle Dove was one of my favourites, probably because the Turtle Dove held somewhat mythic status for me as a child (I can't ever recall seeing or hearing a Turtle Dove when growing up, although I'm sure they must have been present in the Northamptonshire countryside). I was therefore heartened to discover recently that it's now possible to buy prints of the Tunnicliffe illustrations. That of the Turtle Dove is still a cracker in my opinion -  Turtle Dove pic and that of the Cuckoo isn't bad either - Cuckoo pic This could be a costly discovery!

Dragging myself back to the present and Roswell Pits... There were 2 Kingfishers at Cuckoo Bridge and a male Marsh Harrier lifted up from the reedbed and carried off some food. 2 Common Tern noisily occupying the tern-raft on the lily-pad pit (with one on the other raft). Further on some Sand Martins were investigating the pipes and cracks in the concrete wall beneath Potters.