A great English summer has descended on us for the past three weeks, with clear skies, sunshine, and birds calling all around us.
It is the latter that I miss most from life in Africa. Birds. There just aren’t as many species here as I have been used to seeing. But those that are here, are trying hard. It has been fantastic to hear and watch Swifts every evening, and to see and hear small flocks of House Martins chirrupping overhead. The Blackbirds have been in full breeding mode, shouting the odds from the roof-tops, chasing other birds from the breeding territory, and even attacking the dozy cats as they lay in the shade trying to escape the heat.
The tiny, but striking, Goldfinches, perch on the TV aerials every evening, and sing their little hearts out. They have become favourites, and I see them almost every day now.
There have been more Barn Swallows over West Sussex this year any other year since we moved here, and they have been great to see as I drive to work each day.
Magpies are found in all environments, and are bold and successful – the top of the pecking order in most cases, and not averse to robbing nests of other birds.
The biggest thrill still comes from looking up at a passing falcon, and knowing that it is likely to be that iconic species the Peregrine. Before moving to the UK, I had only ever seen Peregrines five or six times in my whole life. I now see them regularly, they breed in Chichester close by, and hunt over the farmlands that surround our village. Their successful recovery from the DDT poisoning now seems to be a memory.
An iconic bird of a different kind held my attention two weekends ago. The superb Supermarine Spitfire, that war-winning aircraft, displayed over Littlehampton Harbour here in West Sussex, leaving us breathless at the spectacle. The occassion was Armed Forces Day in the UK, and the display brought home how much we in the west owe to men who flew the Spitfire.