Rural Reading: Whitethroats leave and spiders returnBy Adrian Lawson
September 09, 2011
Ever since they arrived back in April I have been watching the whitethroats busily raising young in the meadows at the end of my road.
Most years they turn up on April 22 and leave on September 5. But this year they were early, very early.
They arrived on April 3, which is not unusual in Berkshire, but it is in my lane.
These relatively obscure small brown birds fly here from the other side of the Sahara, through North Africa, Spain and France, to settle in Southcote for the summer.
They have been quite successful – I know of at least nine pairs along the lane, and they had young flitting about the bushes by the end of May, and then more young in July.
I have been trying to find any evidence that they reared a third brood, which would fledge about now.
They were certainly singing and courting again six weeks ago, but I think a third family was beyond them.
Gradually they became less common, or at least less easy to see.
I assume they were heading south in ones and twos, but they can be elusive as they skulk about in the vegetation feeding up to get ready for the journey south.
The weather was nice, summery even, when I went there one morning last week.
I spotted a bird, a brief glimpse, not really enough to be sure it was a Whitethroat, but I also heard the familiar little croak.
Then the sky clouded over, the wind picked up and within a few moments summer gave way to autumn.
A squall hit – leaves fell into the river from the overhanging willows, and floated away. The tops of the bushes where the whitethroats sat singing now bent before the wind.
On Tuesday there were none left.
Now free from the threat of the whitethroats, spiders have begun to appear.
Whitethroats must feast on them, because as soon as the last bird has flown the bushes are draped in spiders’ webs.