Sunday, 15 April 2012

One Swallow Does Not A Summer Make

Sunday 15th April 2012

One Swallow Does Not A Summer Make
BBS. To give it the full title, Breeding Birds Survey. I have volunteered to survey, twice a year, a randomly chosen square of the English countryside. So what do I get? A mundane square of arable farmland, not exactly diverse. It won't take long to work out which species it holds, nor will that list exactly be a long one. However, it is one brick in a much larger wall, and hopefully will contribute in some small way to our knowledge about breeding bird populations.
In fact, the species I do expect to see, such as Skylark, Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting are those species which are in trouble. It's obvious for all to see, as is the cause - modern industrial, chemical farming. For this reason it is necessary to spend years jumping through hoops trying to prove beyond doubt the effect and the cause. There is probably nobody who can change what is happening and certainly nobody in power who wants to overturn a whole system of farming for the sake of a few of our feathered friends.
The best we can probably hope to do is to avert the worst effects and create islands of habitat in which these species can survive and thrive.

On a more positive note, we did see a Corn Bunting perched atop a bush, waiting for the sun to warm it up so it could deliver its jingling song. They raise their head to the air and sing with pure abandonment. This is the first Corn Bunting I've seen in the area and gives me hope of eventually seeing one on the farm. Of all the farmland birds, this is perhaps the species which is most at risk of disappearing. We also saw a Swallow, my first of the year after the recent northerly airflow brought spring migration to a grinding halt a couple of weeks ago. They should soon be appearing in the stables where at least five pairs bred last year. Bring it on I say, for my ailing body struggled to cope with the harsh winds today. Summer is most definitely not here yet.

Not the same bird,
but this is what a Black-winged Stilt looks like.
And a good portion of those legs are under the water!
It really does walk on stilts!
I was so ill yesterday, I did not even look at my pager. If I had, I would have known that there was a BLACK-WINGED STILT just down the road. A rare wanderer from Continental Europe and the Mediterranean, this bird had appeared at a small local reserve called Willow Tree Fen.
It seems this bird had arrived in Southern Ireland, dropped in to Oxfordshire for a day, Rutland Water in Leicestershire for a day, then continued its journey into South Lincolnshire. I was lucky. It decided to stay more than just the one day, and early on Sunday afternoon I was watching this black and white bird with its ridiculously long, bubblegum pink legs. Somehow there conspired to be a bitingly cold wind and a strong heat haze. Then I guess that's the nature of April, a transition month.

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