The last of the migrating birds are now in: a reed warbler was present on May 9th, and the same day a garden warbler (pictured) appeared on the embankment, where he remained for the rest of the month, singing his introspective song. Many people have difficulty separating the song of garden warbler from its fairly close relative the blackcap; whereas the blackcap is exuberant and extrovert, with clear, spiky notes, the garden warbler always seems to be mumbling to itself, as if not really wanting to be heard, and the notes are much more muffled.
A handful of swifts have returned to the city centre, and two were feeding over the marshes on the 20th. This is a bird in big trouble, having declined nationally by 60% since 1994. In the UK it is estimated that the population is only around 60,000, whereas it is still doing relatively well in some European countries, with 600,000 in France, 1,000,000 in Portugal and a massive 12,000,000 in Spain. These countries still hold huge numbers of old, unimproved buildings that provide nest sites for swifts. This is no longer the case in the UK, and may account for at least part of the discrepancy between the countries on either side of the Channel.
Another bird in steep decline is the cuckoo. None have been heard on Hambrook this year. The cuckoo’s status has slumped to that of a rarity to be sought out, and while its call is a joy to hear, it’s mixed with anguish at how rare this species has become.
Our solitary parakeet has put in a couple of brief appearances, but seems to have loss the affinity it once had for Hambrook, and is seen and heard less now.
Photo credit: Dave Smith