Michael McCarthy: The countryside teems with life now

Science notebook

Share
Related Topics

Busyness is not normally an attribute one would associate with the natural world, but it is one that is noticeable to a degree at the moment: everything, from plants to caterpillars, from songbirds to tadpoles, is frantically busy. This was borne in upon me during the Easter break when I escaped with some of my family to Dorset and was particularly taken with the activity of rooks.

Although central London is packed full of solitary, sinister-looking carrion crows, it is entirely free of their lively corvid cousins, very similar in appearance but distinguishable by a white face patch and a domed head. This is because rooks, above, need ploughed fields to forage for the insect larvae on which they depend, and ploughed fields are now simply too far away to allow an inner London roost; London's last rookery, in the south-eastern suburbs, disappeared after the Second World War.

But get properly out of London and rooks seem to be everywhere just now, partly because many of the trees have not yet leaved and rookeries are very visible, as is the activity they are generating: the comings and goings, with the nesting season in full swing, and the cawings and the squabblings make any rookery seem like a supermarket on a Saturday afternoon. Drive through rural Hampshire and into Dorset and there seems to be a rookery every half mile, small housing estates in the high branches. In Dorchester there is even a rookery in the town centre, right next to the war memorial.

Dorchester is a peerless county town not least because rich countryside surrounds it on all sides, and walking along the banks of its river, the Frome, I saw my first swallows of the year swooping for waterborne insects. In a privet hedge in a Dorchester street I saw something more remarkable: two tiny birds dashed into the branches barely a foot from my face, and when I peered in I saw they were bright green with orange tops to their heads; they were goldcrests. A moment later I happened to glance up into the sky and saw the reason for the dashing: a sparrowhawk was wheeling and circling, like a miniature buzzard. Frantic activity everywhere.

Return of the cuckoo

The countryside gets even busier now when some of the key spring migrant birds return, certainly to southern England; there will be a change from what you could see and hear over the last weekend and what will be audible and visible over the next. In particular, cuckoos, right, will come back this week to those areas still lucky enough to have them, as will nightingales, but both are on steep slopes of decline.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

General Election 2015: The SNP and an SMC (Salmond-Murdoch Conspiracy)

Matthew Norman
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station  

General Election 2015: Despite all the seeming cynicism, our political system works

Ian Birrell
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living