July 10th: Baby house martens
Further to earlier discussions on the value of the word ‘cute’, this evening I was attracted to the ever increasing volume of chirruping that came from the house martens muddy home just outside my study door, one of seven such dwellings that demonstrate their total colonization of Mill Grange for their own purposes. We’ve only been here for eighteen months or so and our first summer last year was an eye-opener to say the least. There’s a million things that drew our attention that I could probably write a whole book about, but it’s the birds that live with us that give us the best entertainment.
Around May we realised we were not alone when a colony of about 12 house martens descended. We started calling them ‘the crazy gang’ because of their insane flying habits – they swoop and chitter, chatter and whirl, flying in loops, in and out of some imaginary air-course catching insects and passing the time of day with each other. As the daylight wanes, in those magical moments of twilight, their pace increases to alarming velocity as they fly on a crash course to their mud-nests packed under the eaves of the house, only to change their minds at the last possible second and veer away at ninety degrees, narrowly avoiding catastrophe. We realised they had raised their young when later in the summer the numbers seemed to have swelled some, although it’s impossible to tell because they’re always swooping around.
We knew their departure heralded the end of summer and we hoped they would return in the Spring. Then came the. longest. winter. in. the. history. of mankind. Or at least that’s what it felt like! Just when we despaired of the possibility of warmer climes and some return to the glory days of summer ever showing its face again, a thaw came … followed by that strange yellow orb that hovered in the sky. And then they returned. Calling, chattering, twittering and of course diving, swooping, loop-the-looping, in their cacophanous and crazy fashion; the martens were back! Summer was definitely here at last! We heaved a sigh of relief and once again marvelled at the absurdity of their daily flight.
A couple of evenings ago, as I watered my flowers, we noticed that there were baby martens in at least two of the nests. So this evening, I stood and watched, waiting for the time when the parents return to feed their progeny. How cheered I was to snap these two little mouths, open in readiness for the next tasty insect morsel.
I love summer time.