Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Spring has sprung

Garden birds are used to decorate gifts at a wildlife centre

Wise old owl and baby
Blue tits love bacon rind and peanuts

On a sunny spring morning like today my Dad would often recite a poem that starts like this. For me it was another sign that spring was here.

Spring has sprung
The grass has riz
I wonder where 
Them birdies iz

I looked it up and it seems to have  originated in Boston, Massachusetts.
The birdies certainly are back in town after their winter holidays in the sun. The dawn chorus was out in force this morning. On a nature programme once I heard a delightful story about how pairs of birds had been monitored to study their migration habits. One species of bird, I can't remember which, was particularly interesting. The female had spent the winter in Spain whereas the male had been to Iceland. Come springtime they had flown back to the same place and mated again, the same couple.
I could imagine her packing her suitcase with bikini and sunglasses and waving him goodbye while he muttered something about hating lolling about on a beach, he was off to Iceland to see the sights there. When it came to the important stuff they were back together again.

Here in Italy now we are listening out for the cuckoo. My friends who visit us from Britain are always amazed by how many cuckoos you can hear in Italy. It is probably their first stopover and the first sun they really get to feel on their backs and their song is a sure sign that summer is round the corner.
The cuckoo gets its name from the sound it makes

My Dad and Mum used to sing this song and I sang it to my children and now to my grandchildren.

The cuckoo is a pretty bird,
She singeth as she flies,
She bringeth us good tidings
She telleth us no lies
And all the time she singeth
Cuckoo, cuckoo
The summer draweth nigh.

Thomas Hardy mentions the cuckoo in his poem Weathers. Now Thomas Hardy is probably better known as the author of Tess of the D'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure but poetry was his first love. Here is the first verse:

This is the weather the cuckoo likes,
And so do I;
When showers betumble the chestnut spikes,
And nestlingd fly;
And the little brown nightingale bills his best,
And they sit outside at "The Travellers'Rest",
And maids come forth sprig-muslin drest,
And citizens dream of the south and west,
And so do I.
These two little birds from an original drawing by Little Lou, are all loved up for spring

Swallows love to swoop and dive

House martins are smaller and stay closer to home

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