Chasing Chiffchaffs

April 24, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

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The weather has been glorious this week and so I made the decision to take my daily exercise along one of the back roads near the house. It's a road I've driven down several times as a shortcut to a pond where I walk our dog from time to time but have never actually walked it. Its a single track road with fields on other side and beautiful views at the top - looking over to the Black Hill at Earlston, the Eildon Hills and over the hills towards Gattonside and Galashiels. 

The nice thing about this road is that there are various little bits off the beaten track where you can disappear off into the forest, following old forestry tracks into clearings where you can sit in peace. Away from people and traffic with only the sound of bird song to listen to. Bliss!

I spent a wonderful hour in one such clearing the other day, watching a Wren singing its heart out on top of an old, fallen tree trunk while off to my right a Chiffchaff sang and a Treecreeper scurried up the trees. Jays screeched in the trees behind me and the occasional Buzzard 'mewed' above my head. I was occasionally distracted from the bird song to watch as pairs of butterflies twisted and turned and floated upwards into the sky in front of me. 

It really was a beautiful place to spend some time and my mind wandered off into thoughts of watching deer running up the path and badgers ambling through the woods at sunset. There was definitely evidence of these animals being around. Deer prints were in some of the patches of mud that were still in the shade and hadn't yet dried up while well established animal paths slipped in and out of the woods. It's definitely a place I will be back to explore properly once lockdown is over.

What had attracted me to this road in the first place though was the song of the Chiffchaffs. The Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) is one of our earliest migrant birds to arrive from Africa. They are members of the Warbler family and are often seeing flitting around the trees catching insects. Easily confused with the Willow Warbler, the defining characteristic is their song, a loud, simple 'chiff chaff chiff chaff'. Their song can be heard clearly above many other birds and is often heard well before the bird is seen. It is easy to lose track of time searching for them in the trees, trying to capture their image on camera before the move off quickly out of sight.

I've spent several hours this week chasing them along this road and it has been bliss! Blackcaps and Willow Warblers are also starting to appear there and I'm left wondering if I might be treated to sights of my favourite member of the warbler family - the Sedge Warbler. I guess I'll find out soon as it looks like I might be walking this road regularly in the coming weeks.

Till next time. Stay Safe.

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