by Paul Cormacain
I HAD occasion to arise at 5.10am the other morning and was amazed to hear the birds singing even more loudly than ever.
In the area where I live, all birds seem to be in an amorous mood, and they are chittering among themselves all day long. The males are holding long and loud conversations with the ladies. My ears tell me it is the blackbirds who are among the noisiest, and the very early morning chorus seemed to be all blackbirds. So we thought a visit to a local park might provide an even greater range of singing birds.
Nearby is Barnetts Park, a spot about equidistant between the city centres of Belfast and Lisburn. So to the Park we did go to hear the birds. But not too early!
On a nice day Barnetts is lovely, with wide open spaces, large mature trees scattered about the place, and shrubberies and flower beds. Some small areas seem to be left alone, deliberately I think, so these areas look less formal. Wildlife loves it all.
Among all the rain and sleet and snow and sunshine, we were lucky enough to pick the right time to go, for we had the sun. Not bikini sun, or sunstroke sun, but nice sun that encouraged you to stay out.
New growth was there, on trees and shrubs and flowers. This reminds me that we saw more primroses the other day. Have you had much luck with the primroses this year yet?
The birds were as full of life as the trees and flowers, and there was much singing going on. Well, perhaps not quite all.
Redwings, northern thrushes visiting here for the winter, seemed to be quiet. We saw about a dozen of them, and they all seemed more concerned about eating than anything else. It had to be that they were all stuffing themselves in preparation for the long journey back up to the north, knowing that their love lives would burst into passion on arrival.
Blackbirds there were in abundance in the park. The males were looking their finest in their courting outfits, and yes, they were singing for a lady friend. Song thrushes and mistle thrushes were likewise looking good, and amorous. Many tits were about, great tits, blue tits and coal tits. We were on the lookout for long tailed tits, for we frequently saw them there before, but there was not a sign of one.
Chaffinches were out and about. Again the courting colours of the males looked beautiful. Robins were somewhat noisier than usual, the greenfinches were discreet, but magpies, and other types of crow, were all showing off. Could this be love? Wood pigeons and collar doves were more forward and bold than usual.
The birds appreciated the park. Humans out and about enjoyed their dander around the place, but I was just wondering if enough of us appreciated, and visited, our parks.
Charity shops are looking for volunteers, charitable organisations are looking for volunteers, the National Trust is looking for volunteers, and now the RSPB is looking for volunteers. If you have surplus money, there are many poor creatures at home and abroad who could use it. If you have any spare time, you could always donate some of it to charity.
If a major interest is birds, why not help the bird people? The RSPB wants folk to come forward, folk who could help out at some of many events run and/or attended by the RSPB around the country. The organisation may be seen at agricultural fairs, at country fairs, at bird watching walks and many more events.
Locally, the RSPB had its first full events calendar last year, a major achievement! The organisation is absolutely delighted with the response, and declared that the public was very receptive. So being a good organisation, it desires to be an even better organisation, and would like to enlist volunteers to help spread the message.
Stands are regularly at the Balmoral Show, not to mention county fairs, and of course at happenings at their own reserves.
Ideally, the type of person the RSPB would love to meet would be keen on birds, wants to learn about them, or would already have some knowledge of birds. A love of the countryside would help, and a desire to see humans and wildlife live happily together.
If you have some free time, and the attitude that you would like to help even in a small way, please contact Stephanie Simon 9069 0843, or talk to RSPB staff anywhere.
Sunday 20th March - Oxford Island to Castor Bay, 3pm, a `leisurely dander', find out more from Oxford Island on 3832 2205
Monday 21st March - Lisburn RSPB meet to hear Anne-Marie McDevitt on The Countryside Management Scheme, more details from David McCreedy on 4062 6125.
Thursday 31st March - Castle Espie Easter Trail, contact 9187 4146 for details
Sunday 27th March - Easter Eggstravaganza
at PeatlandsPark, at 2pm. Call 38851102.
Biggest Ever Easter Egg, at 2pm, at Castle Espie, whose number is 91874146
Monday 28th March - Easter Eggstravaganza at
Scrabo Country Park, at 11 am, call 9181 1491.
Spring Country Craft Day at Peatlands Park, nest box making for example, call 38851102