Despite having lived in the country all my life, I admit that recognising bird song is just something I’ve never got the hang of. Perhaps now is the time, as their voices seem to be particularly loud during the lockdown quiet, although that’s not so great when the dawn chorus outside our open bedroom window usually starts around 5am!
Watching BBC Countryfile last night, I was impressed with how the expert described the difference between the songs of different birds, making it much easier to remember, so I really must have another go at learning some.
We are fortunate to have thousands of regular bird visitors in the garden and it’s lovely having a bit more time to watch their antics. I hadn’t realised, until I heard a recent survey, that wrens were one of the most common garden birds, although I’m not altogether surprised, as we see so many. They’re noisy little blighters, but very sweet to watch hopping about in the flower bed outside the sitting room window. A couple of years ago, we even had them nesting in a blue ceramic ball on top of a trellis tripod, getting in and out through the hole in the bottom. Last year, however, the ball next door was occupied by a nest of red-tailed bumble bees, so I have a feeling the wrens decided that they made rather unsatisfactory neighbours and decided to move on!
If I had to choose an outright favourite garden bird though, I think it would be the tiny little long-tailed tits. They usually appear in flocks and flit about in the branches of the thorn or crab apple, picking off tiny insects and spiders. They really are very pretty.
But back to the bird song - and Barny! Of course there are some songs which most people know, including pigeons, owls, and pheasants. The pheasants are particularly noisy at the moment (especially outside our window!) with all the young cocks strutting about still trying to impress what’s left of the hens, as most of the females are now sitting on their nests full of eggs. We also have a large number of very vocal owls who ‘chat’ away to each other, with their calls echoing out across the fields from one bit of woodland to another.
Obviously, you would normally expect owls to be calling after dark, but not here. We seem to have one very confused Tawny Owl who hoots at absolutely any time of the day! We can’t work out whether he’s young and confused, or elderly and confused, but he certainly seems to have got his body clock in a bit of a muddle. When it first started, we thought we were hearing things, and then wondered if it could just possibly be another bird impersonating him, which apparently a Jay can do. As we have a pair of Jays around, I waited until I could pinpoint where the hooting was coming from and managed to creep up sufficiently to confirm it was definitely one very mixed up owl.
So on the basis that he (or she, of course!) is unlikely to be around for ever, or might actually learn the correct procedure for owls, we decided to honour him and all the other owls we hear with this fantastic new addition on our granite post.
As with everything at Harefield, we try to keep it as local as possible, so we asked chainsaw artist Sam Ellis who lives just a few miles up the road to carve us an owl, and Barny is the fabulous result. Because there was already a hole in the post a little further down, I thought it would be rather fun if I asked Sam to make him looking down to something that was hiding below, which is exactly what he’s done.
Many thanks to Sam for his fantastic work of art. He’s so like a Barn Own, the way he’s sitting on a post, that he has now become ‘Barny’ and we’re look forward to seeing the reaction of the first children to return to Harefield, both to him, and his little ‘friend’.
By the way - the little 'friend' has yet to be named - any suggestions?