The voice of the reeds has changed since pre-lockdown days. On my last visit in early March it was a dry, papery susurration as the wind moved through the lifeless stems. The dead architecture of the phragmytes was vacant and drained of colour except for the odd Reed Bunting clambering about like a janitor in an abandoned building.
But today everything has changed. The bright green re-growth is visible and the whole swaying tenement is alive with Reed and Sedge Warblers. Every few paces a bird is noisily proclaiming its territory. Whitethroats in the bushes add to the cacophony. There’s something lapidary in all this bird song. It’s too substantial to be just moving air. Pebbles and bright shining coins are being tumbled together in the reeds.
On the water side of the raised bank that makes up the south wall a small party of Whimbrel – the Seven-Whistlers – are working away at the water line. They’ve dropped in on their way out of Africa heading north. Tomorrow or the next day or the day after that they’ll be gone making for their breeding grounds in the Arctic tundra, whistling as they go. Out on the water an Egyptian Goose is doing its donkey impression, braying asthmatically. Shelduck and Avocet and Redshank are busy in the wet mud revealed by the retreating tide.
On Fisher’s Marsh a pair of Marsh Harriers wheel over the reedbeds . A number of pairs nest along the south wall, dividing up the territories much as the warblers do. As the air warms Wall Brown butterflies appear on the path. A cuckoo starts up in the trees behind Church Farm Marshes. Moments later a second joins in from across the water.
And then a sudden flash of yellow on the slub piled up from the drainage ditches. A pair of yellow wagtails flickering across the drying spoil. Their colour is astonishing. As if the yellow mustard that grows in drifts here, has been distilled and poured into a bird.
I found myself laughing out loud at this unexpected lockdown gift, the sheer Maytime excess of it all. Instead of spring creeping up with the slowly lengthening days, marking its approach with the first migrants, and the slow warming of the air, suddenly here is was all at once, the whole delicious kit and caboodle delivered at my feet.
One Spring, guv’nor. Sign here.