Jonathan: In the store at the croft this morning, filling up the bucket with hen food, I was startled by an loud rasping noise from the corrugated steel roof. Going outside gently to investigate – and there is a male corncrake on the ridge: as soon as it caught sight of me it fled. Later, scattering grain for the goslings and their mother (yes still six babies) down by the shore, there was the corncrake ‘crexing’ again – this time from long grass along by the stream. It would be great if we can get a pair nesting on the croft: not sure how excited the guests at Carrick will be though, as they do tend to ‘crex’ loudly through the night!
Jonathan: Blackbird singing in the dead of night … That’s from The Beatles ‘white album’. Have you ever heard a blackbird sing at night? It’s not the golden song of spring we all love so much, sung from rooftops or high boughs and heard on the wind and far afield. No, it’s more a quiet whistling, heard from amongt the wood-pile – I’ve had to stand perfectly still just to hear it. It’s as if the bird were practicing in private, or comforting itself in the dark and dreich of a storm, as we might ourselves whistle in the dark to keep our own fears at bay (as I did myself as a child!). It’s not just at night either, but at any time outside the nesting season. And today, as I paused in my digging to catch my breath, that is what I heard – barely discernible from the noisy jostling by the wind of the little thicket in the corner of the garden, close by my work. I held my breath, told my heart I would be obliged if also it would cease its noisy thumpings for a few moments at least, and looked out for that little bird. The sound ceased, and then a slight shifting in the arrangement of browns and greys, and behold, there she was – a beautiful female blackbird on the handle of my spade. She looked about at my excavations, dropped silently down and picked over a few grains of soil and sand, and then – away she flitted with a morsel of worm or some other delicacy. Her companion – for to my knowledge it is only the male that sings, whether the song of spring of summer or the winter whistling – remained unseen, but as I resumed my work, I felt sure he would also make a close inspection of my work as soon as I gave it up. And at that point it occurred to me that I really was getting more wet and muddy than even the urgency of this job justified.