Each year, as spring progresses, small birds which have either migrated south or spent the winter away from our exposed coastal location begin to return. This year seems to be a vintage one for the returners.
Last year was the first in which we'd noticed redpolls coming into our garden, and it's a pleasure to see these brightly coloured birds back again this spring. This is the cock, while....
....the hen, although she lacks the fiery red breast, is every bit as beautiful. They're small, neat birds, but they don't allow any bullying from the chaffinch hoards.
The goldfinches have been with us all winter in some numbers, but the siskins have only just returned. Not that we're seeing them in any numbers, or regularly, which we did last year. They've been with us all the way through some winters, but in the one that's just ended we didn't see any.
I thought this might be a twite, but the Raptor, who feels under some pressure after his misidentification of a common sandpiper, agonises. "Now this is a tricky one," he writes, "but I'm going to stick my neck out and go with a female linnet. It has a slightly grey head and in Bill Oddie's book he states, 'The best identification feature is frosty white wing flashes, a feature shown by none of the other small streaky finches.'" The Raptor ends, "Oh, please let me be right."
The Raptor, whose interest in birds is more recent than mine - yet he's far more knowledgable - identified this one for me last year. It's a whitethroat, singing in a bramble bush.
I'm not even going to attempt an identification of this one, except that it's a warbler, and the Raptor is feeling so fragile I haven't the heart to send it to him for his view. Whatever it is, it's very pretty.
It's been a great start to the returning small birds' year, with plenty of species around, and in some numbers. I have already said that there seem to be more warblers than ever, and there are certainly far more of the swallows and martins than last year.
So many house martins that, after an absence of three years, they've returned to Ormsaigbeg, with two pairs making their nests under the eaves of a house near ours. It's great to see them back, but we really would like one pair in the nesting site we fitted up for them on the end of our house.