News from the regions
News from the regions
The Easter holiday was a time of firsts for our family. On Good Friday my sister in the West of Scotland heard her first cuckoo of the year. It was calling from the hillside above the house where, three summers ago, we watched a large, very loud cuckoo chick being fed by its foster parents, a pair of meadow pipits. Unlike in England, cuckoos are doing well in Scotland. Perhaps these northern birds take a different migration route, one less fraught with dangers, or it may be that there is less habitat loss with its consequent loss of host species. (However, I understand that one was seen on Addingham Moor on 24th April).
That weekend my stepson in Wales reported that a swallow had arrived on their small holding and seemed to be sticking around. Perhaps a bird, or its offspring, from last year’s nest. Meanwhile his younger brother had been taking close-up photos of a newly fledged robin chick in his very modest-sized garden in Kettering. The parents had been feeding their nestlings on a diet supplemented with juicy mealworms and consequently were very confiding.
Not to be upstaged by all this news, my husband and I set out for our favourite walk along the Wharfe from Barden Bridge. The little wood below the Tower is really good warbler habitat and, sure enough, we heard blackcaps singing lustily from the low bushes and bramble scrub, and spotted a mistle thrush just settling on its nest in the fork of an alder. There were other treats in store. As the footpath leaves the wood, the high banks of the river are pocked with small holes – the nesting sites of sand martins. These small cousins of swallows and house martins are usually the first of their kin to arrive from Africa, generally in late March, – and there they were skimming over the water and then wheeling off over the fields. It’s amazing that they still use this site, as footpaths on both sides of the river pass close by with their full complements of walkers and dogs. Indeed, I believe that the main colony has shifted up river to a quieter spot.
The river was particularly worth watching. A pair of grey wagtails, grey backed with brilliant yellow below, passed with characteristically looping flight and – grand finale – a slim common sandpiper dipped and pecked its way across the shingle.