|A water rail fleeing the battle after a bout of "sharming"|
I was out early this morning to make the most of a bright and sunny, but chilly May dawn. I decided to have a wander alongside the river Itchen for a change, as water always looks so amazing on these sparkly mornings, with a little steam lifting off the surface as the sun’s first rays strike the clear water.
We (Lurcher Rosie, my trusty companion alongside) walked quietly along the water meadows next to the bubbling water, listening to the birdsong as we went. Song thrush, Robin, Wren, Dunnock, Blackcap and Blackbird filled the air with their constant bursts of song, while a Grey wagtail flitted about, seemingly unhappy about Rosie being in the vicinity of a nest, safely hidden away somewhere close by.
Suddenly, an incredibly loud “squeal” shattered the morning’s peace, putting Rosie almost onto a full “point” – ready to give chase to the wild piglet sounding creature should it try to flee! As we stood and waited, more loud squeals, shrieks, grunts and groans emerged from the rushes beside the river. There was obviously quite a battle in progress and Rosie dearly wanted to join in as it all sounded such fun!
Eventually one of the culprits, I suspect the loser, emerged from the thick cover to flap and run down the water’s edge to safety – a Water rail. Battle over, the morning returned to a more tranquil setting, birdsong and bubbling waters once more dominating the morning airwaves.
I quite often hear these rather shy and retiring birds, who like to remain hidden away as much as possible. In fact to see one and not just hear it is quite a treat. When they produce these outbursts of noise, far more mammal like than bird like I always think, it is known as “Sharming”. They can be heard from late winter and throughout the spring, as they defend their territories and hold explosive courtship displays.
I would have thought that all this would have been organised by mid May, but obviously there are just one or two more battles still to be fought out before final territorial boundaries are firmly in place!