Sunday, 19 May 2013

Incoming...our summer guests arrive.

  Three species of migrating birds have already been spotted around the Sanctuary: the wood warbler, the wheatear, and the swallow. Having faced the challenges of their journey, they are here to breed and rear their young through our summer months. They wear no evidence of any hardship their journey might have brought, and focus upon their tasks as any native species. 
  Numerous wood warblers can be found in the surrounding woodland. They have been granted red conservation status, the most serious risk to a species, because of a decline in the breeding population (BTO). Their arrival emphasises the Sanctuary's worth as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. 

Wood warbler (Phylloscopus sibilatrix)

  This particular wood warbler could be heard long before it was seen. Its noise amongst the burgeoning branches drew my attention with a series of repetitive whistles. It seemed to call at me from above, move to another branch or tree, then call at me again, circling me with song. This process continued for the time I stood marvelling at its appearance and  behaviour, and was repeated by another wood warbler a little way down the track. The actions were so purposefully directed toward self-exposure, that I am tempted to conclude it was using itself as a diversion to distract me from a nest or nesting partner. Surely such cognitive ability is not beyond an intercontinental traveller. I have since learned these birds are ground nesting animals. Could it be that my focus was being drawn upward into the canopy, while an active nest was right beneath my nose?
  No bigger than a robin, the wood warbler has a distinctive yellow/green face and breast, with a white belly. A dark stripe runs from the bill to the back of the head, breaking for the beady black eyes. It's legs are a light, flesh-like colour. Its fragile appearance belies a remarkable strength.

Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)

  The wheatear is also here for the summer. In contrast to the wood warbler, it was walking along an open field, making use of the soft earth molehills for insects to eat. A striking member of the thrush family, it has been granted amber conservation status due to its unfavourable conservation status in Europe. The RSPB provides a good explanation of criteria for each category. At about 15 metres, the wheatear did not seem to mind my presence, until sight of the camera triggered concern, and a closer scrutiny of my movement. When it eventually moved deeper into the field, it did so on foot, moving with a sprightly hop and skip.

  As with the other migratory birds, the wheatear will return to Africa when our autumn months begin, so now is a great opportunity to see and appreciate them. They are an impressive looking bird, with flashes of orange, blues and grey. They seem confused at the close attention, and reciprocate our scrutiny with interest. With no concept of admiration, they have no option but to treat our curiosity with suspicion.

Swallow (Hirundo rustica)

  The swallow is perhaps the most iconic of our summer visitors, and each year they return to the Sanctuary in significant numbers. Some make a home in the barn, but many more can be seen rising, swooping and diving around and above the Sanctuary's grounds, plucking insects from the air. Their aerial manoeuvres are quite a sight, and their arrow-like form and deeply forked tail make them easily identifiable.

  Up close, the swallow has a bright red face, and a pale coloured front. Its wings and back are a glossy blue, as is the collar. As seen here, it will perch to rest and survey its surroundings. The swallow has also been granted amber status because of its unfavourable conservation status in Europe. It has been said that females will mate with males with the most symmetric tails, as these are of higher quality (BTO).

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