Thursday, 30 May 2013

The flycatchers return

  The spotted flycatcher is another of those birds I first came across at the Sanctuary. It was perched on a riverside branch, ready to launch itself at any invertebrate that dared take to the air. There was something stylish about its appearance, the stripes across its crown and breast, as if it had taken the dullness of colour that nature had granted, and defied it into a fashion. More than attitude, it suggested respectability. On a day when wrens, wagtails and dippers were scurrying from the camera lens, it returned a look that questioned my actions. It was hunting for life-meaning food, while I was playing with a box. Patiently, like an adult humouring a child, or a star indulging a fan, it allowed me to exhaust my photographic needs, and watched as I trundled away, somewhat embarrassed for causing such a fuss.

  Spotted flycatcher (Muscicapa striata)

   Once again beside the river, this particular flycatcher will have recently arrived from its annual African winter. As with its fellow migratory birds, it has travelled thousands of gruelling miles, losing many of its species along the way. While here, it will welcome in a new generation, before returning to Africa in September.

  The spotted flycatcher has been given a red conservation status because of the decline to its breeding population (BTO). Monitoring this and similarly troubled species is important for the ecological balance of the area. Changes to a species population can have far reaching consequences for the natural environment. Last week saw the publication of a collaborative report by several conservation agencies, which suggests that 60% of the studied native species are in decline (RSPB). That is a hugely significant figure and a worrying trend for UK wildlife.

  Given such news, it was nice to see some local mallards and moorhens with their new arrivals, though neither group belonged to the those who have taken up residency around Baboon Island. The moorhens, including four chicks, slipped into the canal from the towpath. As they made their way along the water, close to the cover of the grassy sides, one of the adults took the lead while the other brought up the rear, trying to keep the chicks between them. I cannot say whether the adults were aware, but one of their chicks had lost the formation and appeared to be lagging dangerously behind. Not wanting my presence to cause them unnecessary distress, I removed myself to allow them to regroup.

Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)

  The mallards were travelling along the River Tawe. Unlike the more regimented moorhens, the seven ducklings appeared to be venturing anywhere and everywhere they wanted. Along with the mother, a male mallard was in attendance, which is unusual behaviour as the father has frequently returned to its bachelor lifestyle before the birds have even hatched.

  The new arrivals were not restricted to the water, with this long tailed tit returning to the nest with food for its young.  In no time at all it was gone again, searching for much needed nutrition, with flying invertebrate its choice of food. Although it kept returning to the nest, I did not see a second long tailed tit, which made me think that it was possibly inside the nest, brooding.

Long tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus)

  Although the long tailed tit is a relatively common bird, I never tire of seeing this small fluffy spectacle. As cute as any mammal, it makes the most incredible domed nest, which is almost elastic to the touch (obviously only when the bird has long since left residency). Feathered for comfort, it is the perfect place to raise any family.

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