‘Arrivals in May’

Month by Month, Part 2

This mini-series collates three pieces written by Ophrys, our correspondent, committed choir member and nature enthusiast inside HMP Rye Hill. They were written, roughly month by month, over the course of April, May and early June, and track with great care the small changes in the natural environment and wildlife from within the grounds of Rye Hill. Even in this restricted space, great variety and joy emerge. You can find the previous episode here.

On the last day of April, as the evening sun softened and cooled while it lowered in the evening sky, I heard a familiar little call above me and looked up. Four house martins greeted each other as they swooped in shallow circles around and above where I stood in the exercise yard. It seemed this was their first encounter since arriving back from Africa, where they had spent the winter.

I in turn greeted them having watched them arrive last year – just after I myself had first come to Rye Hill. After raising two broods of young, they took their leave of Warwickshire and Britain and flew south in November. Is it 8000 miles? Well, it’s not far off, and what do they weigh? 3 ounces, 80 grammes, something minute. It’s extraordinary when you think about it.

I find them beautiful, along with the swallows. Their swooping grace, their arrival with the spring, their beautiful nests built with mud and moisture and lined with tiny feathers. There’s a happiness to them, as well as their beauty and grace, and there’s a magnificence about their resolve in returning. I don’t know who else notices the house martins besides me but I bet some others here do. Today – mid-May – there are 8 birds here. 4 pairs, I wonder? The H Wing birds are investigating last year’s nest located up under the gutter. Soon the females will be laying.

I notice them each day when I go out and quietly watch their flight as they swoop down & about and, I must say, they gladden my heart.