It is the time of the returners. Cuckoos have returned to Ilkley Moor – and rather earlier than usual. Perhaps the balmy weather a couple of weeks ago had something to do with this. We have even heard a distant call from up the hill while sitting in our own garden in the sunshine. Chiffchaffs are singing in our garden and, I’m told, willow warblers are cheering walkers on local woodland and moorland paths with their wistful song.
I received an email from stepson in Snowdonia with news of a very important return. The Cambrian News proudly reported the return, on Easter Sunday, of a female osprey who has nested in the Glaslyn Valley, about 15 miles from Chris, for the past 15 years. A loud cheer arose from the Glaswyn Valley community-led supporters who run the small reserve and monitor the progress of its most famous visitor. Mrs G – as she has been named – has successfully fledged 33 young and has 62 grandchicks. (lovely new word!) Her original mate failed to return in 2015 but she soon paired up with new mate, Aran, who also came back to the reserve, 4 days after her.
I remember when, to see an osprey, you had to go to Loch Garten in Scotland, where the nest was closely guarded, not always successfully, by RSPB wardens. Now there are several other sites where you can see them, near Keswick or at Rutland Water, for example, and there are certainly many nests, some no doubt belonging to Mrs G’s descendants, that escape the glare of publicity. Ospreys are even seen in Wharfedale – usually in transit in Spring or Autumn, but sometimes one will stay a few days to refuel in one of the Washburn reservoirs.
There is another, equally impressive success story among our avian raptors – that of the peregrine. It nearly went extinct in the 1960s but, thanks to tireless work by conservationists and the discovery of the deadly role that DDT (a commonly used pesticide) played in its supporting food chain, and its subsequent banning, now peregrines are back in all their traditional nest-sites – and the population is still expanding. Two streets away from our granddaughter’s flat in the centre of Leicester a pair are nesting on a convenient ledge on the Cathedral. They are a common sight in the city centre as they hunt their prey – pigeons being a favourite! If you have a computer, you can watch the nest live on camera. Or you can watch a pair actually live If you go to Malham Cove.