−−− BY LINDA JENKINSON −−−
Welcome back everyone. I hope you’ve been managing to get outdoors to listen to the wonderful wall of sound that is birdsong. It really is like listening to nature’s orchestra although some of the sounds on our wetlands can be hard to listen to at times! I speak of the huge black-headed gull colony at St Aidan’s Nature Reserve in the Lower Aire Valley where it’s hard to hear yourself think above the noise let alone pick up the sound of singing reed bunting and sedge warbler. Only the explosive song of wren and Cetti’s warbler punctuates the deafening roar of the gull colony at a volume thats easy to hear.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been running one-to-one classes to keep everyone in tune with nature and the seasonal soundscape. Since January, when we were all locked down again, our resident birds have been getting ready to raise the next generation. On fine days they’ve been singing, displaying and choosing nesting sites. On cold days they’ve gone back into survival mode. They’ve put spring on hold and quietly gone about their business searching for food. You may have noticed that you can hear birdsong on some days but not on others. This has been more apparent over the last couple of weeks when we’ve had a spell of Arctic weather.
The worrying thing is that our spring migrant birds have been flooding in since early March and, since they are mostly insectivorous, they will have struggled to find enough food. It’s highly likely some will have perished, but the majority will have the experience to cope with such unexpected weather events. After all, many species have travelled from as far away as sub-Saharan Africa. Some species will reverse-migrate to find a warmer clime until favourable conditions return.
So which new birds can you expect to see now that you’re able to go further afield? Well, a visit to moorland might get you wheatear and ring ouzel. The wheatear is a little ground dwelling bird, related to robins and redstarts, and has a white rump. In fact its name is derived from Old English for ‘white arse’.
Ring ouzels belong to the thrush family and look like blackbirds with a white bib. Wheatears and ring ouzels can be seen passing through our urban greenspaces and can even turn up in large gardens as they hunt for ground insects on their journey.
When it comes to birdsong, the arrival of the operatic divas, the warblers is much anticipated. Up until now we’ve been able to hear chiffchaff, blackcap and willow warbler and we are now welcoming in many other species which will take up breeding territory on our hedgerows, wetland and scrubland. Very soon I’ll be straining my ears to hear reed and sedge warbler as I make my way through that cacophony of black-headed gull sound.
Sand martin, house martin and swallow have arrived already and, by the time you read this column, I’ll be expecting to see my first swift arriving in Leeds to feed over our wetlands. The experienced breeding adults will return to their nest sites about 7th May, depending on the weather of course.
To help you enjoy nature and the spectacle of birdsong, I’m offering all readers of Yorkshire Reporter 50% off their first 2 hour class with Start Birding. Email me using the code YRSpring2021 in the subject box and tell me which birds you’d like to see or what interests you the most about birds. You don’t need to have your own binoculars to get started. Happy nature watching!
Linda Jenkinson teaches people about birds in and around Leeds. For details of indoor and outdoor classes email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07778 768719. Visit www.startbirding.co.uk or Start Birding on Facebook and Twitter