No one sees him, no one stops to discover the secret life of the hanging wood. And despite his song, his gorgeous plumage and his tail of flame he is secret. Today's meeting has been years in the making. There's a redstart calendar in my mind and I await his coming. I know his habit and his habitat: it's as if he has a grid reference programmed to particular trees in the hanging wood, and I've learnt them too. The first notes of his song touch my heart. He sings to his kind whilst wary of predators, and the canopy reveals and conceals him. In intermittent song, he flits to other branches and my search begins again. It takes a keen ear to pinpoint song and anyone unfamiliar with it might not bother to seek for him, not knowing the treat in store. And all the while the April sun highlights the first coming of spring to the escarpment.
In a few days male redstart will be contesting territory and seeking mates, singing from tree tops all along the escarpment- until walkers and runners appear and they vanish. Whitebeam buds will burst into flower, into leaf, and once the redstarts have mates they'll be more discreet and harder to see.
Two days ago I heard and saw my first cuckoo of the season. I was out there looking for him yesterday but the wind drowned out everything except valiant larksong. This morning I heard him as I approached the escarpment, turned to find him sitting in a bare ash, his wings drooped below his body. Our eyes met and he flew. Two sightings and April is not out.
On Ghyll Brow I heard a loud tapping and found a great spotted woodpecker at the top of a telegraph pole.