So summer officially arrived for me with last week's chiffchaff and sand martins at Dalgarven Mill, a beautiful set of old restored buildings near Dalry where you can go for a walk along the river and the weir, and where you can enjoy a coffee and a bit of home baked coffee cake. It's a good spot for birds too.
So the chiffchaff singing was my first sign of summer, usually the first along with the wheatear to return from Africa. I'll head up to Clyde Muirsheil regional park beyond Lochwinnoch to see if these are back yet, or maybe try along the coast at Seamill or Irvine.
There was a swallow or two among the sand martins, and yesterday a couple of house martins over old Beith cemetery which leads out to the valley and the hills beyond. This is the valley all the winter thushes dropped into for the winter back in October, the redwings and fieldfares who enliven the frosted fields and who shuffle reluctantly into gardens for any apple or pears we might drop for them. But now the valleys are verdant and welcoming for the summer visitors, stretching as it does all the way from the Glengarnock whisky bond sheds to Kilbirnie Loch and along towards the Barr Loch.
A subsequent visit to Dalgarven revealed the presence of several willow warblers in full song, and a blackcap - barely recognisable as a songster! - stuttering his way through a few new phrases. His lusty fluting came to full strength towards the end of my visit, and I had close views of another one at the entrance to the Corsehillmuir Wood in Kilwinning a bit later.
Lesser whitethroat and whinchats have now been reported at Ardeer, and cuckoos as Largs, although they are still absent from Loch Doon - where I heard my first one many years ago, in the mid 1970's. I still look for the at Clyde Muirsheil and near Inversnaid, on the road down from Aberfoyle.
Our local jackdaws are looking a bit lost since the slates got fixed. Their nest-building activities in the loft had been well on, and now they're going to have to go somewhere else. Shame, I enjoyed seeing them give me dirty looks whenever I went up there to pack away drums or whatever - they would hang abut saying "oh hi, when you going away again? This is our place up here. Away back down your hole!"
Jaikies - full of character!