This little bird is, I believe, a “redstart”. “Start” is an old English word for “tail” and when he flies you can really see the lovely red-ochre colour of his tail feathers. I first noticed him in the garden last summer and he has a very distinctive call. I got quite fond of him so was a little sad when he disappeared in the late autumn.
In turns out that redstarts fly off to Africa for the winter – “sub-sahara but north of the equator” “from Senegal across to Yemen”. He came back on April 1st. I heard him calling so went out into the garden and there he was.
He’s taken to sitting in the tree near my chair when I’m out so I have the impression that he’s at the very least comfortable around me. Maybe he even recognises me? I’m certainly convinced he’s the same redstart who was here last year.
Can you imagine that these little birds fly all the way from the Charente to Africa, crossing the Sahara? Then he flies back again to arrive back here, in the very same garden. Honestly, I find that totally astonishing. How does he do that? Not just how does he find his way there and back again? But how does he have the energy, the stamina, the sheer ability to fly such a distance?
I saw two swallows fly over the roof of the house yesterday. I know “one swallow doesn’t make a summer”, but, hey, there were two of them! Must be a good sign, right? And then, late yesterday afternoon, the first of the returning “hoopoes” made it’s appearance, collecting something from the vine on the wall then flying off flashing his stripes and his fancy hair style! I think he’s been off to Africa for the winter too….
I know one way to be aware of the seasons is by noticing the flowers and trees, but there’s something very pleasing about this rhythm of the birds too.