It’s getting light in the morning now when I leave the house, and the birds are busier each day. Robins and blackbirds are always singing, but great tits, sparrows, starlings crows and magpies are all adding to the livelier atmosphere, and this morning there was a thrush. So spring has started. There’s a lot of bird movement later in the day too. It’s at this time of year I see most of the dunnocks wrens and goldfinches (though I certainly hear the wrens and dunnocks come May – for small birds they can be really rowdy). I heard the first curlews yesterday when I was gardening, and the geese are gathering together, though not really going north yet.
But the big feature of the mornings just now are the gulls. Not the black-headed ones, they’ve been here all along, and though there’s an awful lot of them their noise is nothing special. And it’s not the black-backed gulls which come back in the summer to nest on the warehouse roof. They have an awful raucous witchy screaming call, which I could do without. These are herring gulls, which haven’t been too common round here up till now. Perhaps it’s the stae of the tide, perhaps there’s more food along the river bank, but suddenly the morning sky is full of this lovely wild romantic call, the sound they put over Sleepy Lagoon at the end of Desert Island Discs, the sound that Tolkien describes as ‘waking the sea-longing’ in the hearts of the Elves. Herring gulls are not the easiest of neighbours. They are big, and fearless and hungry. These are the gulls that will have your fish supper out of the paper before you can sit down to eat it, that terrify children in school-yards by mobbing them till they drop their play-pieces. But they are also on the Red List of endangered species, and in the moning light, they sound wonderful.
Garden work is only just beginning, but I’ve been potting on plants of winter savory and mint, cutting back dead foliage on southernwood, costmary and tarragon – all showing signs of new growth, and moving established cuttings out into the cold frame to harden off before I plant them out. Today I picked parsley chervil chives and fennel to put in fish cakes, so I feel that the year of the herbs is really taking off!