RICHARD WILLIAMSON: Wondrous eggs of easter herald spring rebirth

Easter eggs come in all sizes.

I enjoy the big hollow chocolate eggs with small ones inside.

Peeling the silver paper gives a primeval feeling not so much of gluttony as of genesis.

We came out of an egg and we’ve never forgotten.

Long ago in the water-time when the moon first pulled the tides on earth wishing she too had the oceans, chemicals met and there was an electric impulse as they joined in the first-ever birth.

The moon swings everlasting on, like an infertile egg, yet giving us our pendulum of rebirth with every tide and ovulation.

Each bird’s egg is like a miniature planet.

Some are even almost as round as the moon, like the egg of the tawny owl and the kingfisher.

They are smooth and white yet with the smallest craters, too.

It took four billion years to get to this state of perfection from the fires of violence and explosion.

Now every bird has its own ideas of perfect shape and colour. The eggs in my picture are from 29 different species, ranging in size from a rhea to a blue tit.

All the brown eggs belong to birds that lay eggs out in the open, on the ground usually.

These include various gulls, pheasants, and plovers.

The smaller the egg, the more likely that it is laid in a hidden place which is insulated against the cold as it loses more heat than a larger egg.

This month there will be about two hundred million wild birds’ eggs laid in Britain. ten million pairs of robins give 50 million eggs, for instance.

Four-and-a-half million hen blackbirds each laying four eggs, 1.5 million great tits, 3.5 million blue tits, each of those two with up to ten eggs each, 3.5 million hen wrens, nearly a million rooks and two million pheasants, all help to add the total to more than 60 million pairs of birds of 260 different species.

Some birds such as the red-backed shrike are represented by one pair at the most: usually none at all.

We won’t see many turtle doves any more either, but

others such as Cetti’s warbler and little egret increase as breeders all the time.

Garganey and gadwall ducks are increasing, so are those birds which became almost extinct a century ago such as the avocet and bittern red kite and peregrine.

It changes all the time. Years ago, I was warden on both Blakeney Point and Winterton Dunes in East Anglia, for summer seasons.

It was a difficult job keeping egg collectors away from the colonies of terns and ring plovers which nested right out in the open on the shingle.

But many visitors just wanted to see these treasures briefly, then quickly leave the hens to incubate.

They were fascinated by that shape, that camouflage, that link to themselves through billions of years of evolution.

Maybe you can get that same satisfaction with the chocolate egg. Happy Easter to you all.