Swifts are back for the summer and Aylsham Swift Group is helping these extraordinary birds
Our special swifts are back from Africa, heralding summer and the time we can enjoy their short stay. Swifts have travelled from central Africa, crossing the Sahara and navigating storms to reunite with lifelong partners. Swifts tagged in Eastern England travelled an astonishing 14,000 miles after leaving the UK in the summer of 2010 and arriving back the following spring. You may have seen swifts already this year, skimming rooftops in joyful ‘screaming parties’ or soaring above our town.
Walking by the lake on the Blickling National Trust estate, I was spellbound by a flock of seventy or so swifts. In the distance, lightning lashed while at the lake’s edge, swifts feasted on clouds of insects. Watching silhouettes of scythe-like wings and forked tails whirling over my head, I wondered if these long-distance migrants were passing through or nesting nearby. Other times, I’ve seen swifts swoop across the lake and dip their head in the water before pitching upwards and shivering to shake droplets from their feathers.
Each summer, I head out to Winterton to see the little terns nesting. On a warm afternoon in July, I’m heading across the heath to the beach, excited about seeing these remarkable birds again. One year, I arrived too late and most of the birds had left. Another year, the terns were mostly breeding at Eccles. Once, I decided to go after the breeding season, but the beach felt so empty. Winterton is best when the electric fence is up and the terns are back from Africa!
Having grown up on a council estate with tiny gardens and a father who thought birds were best eaten, it wasn’t until I had my own family that I started walking in the countryside and watching birds.
It was only recently though, having moved to Norfolk, that I had the pleasure of seeing a pair of curlews. I wondered how I could have missed this enchanting bird in the past.
I wanted to find out more about curlews and what better way than to read a nature memoir! Unlike me, nature writer and campaigner Mary Colwell is no stranger to the curlew call, nor why they may be hard to see. Continue reading →
Humans have a complex relationship with animals, ranking them in a hierarchy of utilisation and affection according to human cultures and values. While some animals are saved, others are slaughtered.
Depending on where you live in the world, elephants, rhinos and lions might be seen as endangered species to be protected or they might be used for pseudo-medicine, trinkets and trophies. Cats are beloved pets for some but for others, they are bird killers or meat. It can be difficult to balance cultural differences, species conservation status and ethics to find the best outcome.
But questionable cultural practices aside, even evidence-based conservation science faces an ethical dilemma.Continue reading →
I lift the blinds on the back door and there he is. Every morning, the garden birds arrive for breakfast but while other birds wait in the pine trees or gather on the fence, this fledgling sits between the flower pots. As I open the door, he hurries forward to be first in line for the soaked mealworms I sprinkle on the patio and then under the table where he will be safe. I have grown fond of this blackbird fledgling, although I know he is sick. He can no longer fly like his sibling. Continue reading →
Huddled behind the hide at the far end of Sandfly Bay, we shelter from winds whipping sand across the dunes. The sun is yet to break as we wait for yellow-eyed penguins to make their way from the headland to the rocks below. It’s a perilous journey from forest nests to ocean feeding grounds, and I wonder why a penguin makes this long trek across farmland each day. Continue reading →
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency says pipes washed ashore in Norfolk pose no danger of pollution. Are they unaware of, or simply ignoring plastic fragments scattered along the coast?
The MCA’s announcement on the pollution risk from four gigantic plastic bore pipes washed up on Norfolk’s east coach beaches was reported by The Guardian. Twelve pipes were being tugged from Norway to Algeria when they came loose after a collision with a container ship. While there are reports that the recovery operation is underway, no-one is talking about the plastic fall out on pristine beaches used by seals and rare seabirds. Continue reading →
The second rarest seabird in the UK, little terns face a bleak future without our help
At a colony along Norfolk’s east coast where I’ve been helping as a volunteer, RSPB wardens are providing dedicated round-the-clock protection for endangered beach-nesting birds. The RSPB’s conservation work is part of the EU Life + Nature Little Tern Recovery Project involving eleven partner organisations, including the RSPB, Natural England, The National Trust, Cumbria Wildlife Trust and Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust. The recovery project has been crucial in monitoring, protecting and increasing little tern populations across the UK. Continue reading →
Help garden birds through the winter and feel the warmth of nature
The rental property we moved to recently was built on land where an old bungalow used to be. Except for three conifers, the garden was cleared and laid to lawn except for an empty flower bed which I turned over the other week hoping to attract robins and blackbirds with worms.
Human settlement pushes New Zealand’s yellow-eyed penguin to the brink
Yellow-eyed penguin feeding chick at Penguin Place, Otago. Image credit: David Brighten
The Emperor penguin is arguably the most familiar penguin in the world, the poster penguin for climate change as global warming melts the Antarctic ice they depend on. Indeed, this magnificent penguin’s survival in such an inhospitable environment is well-reported in films and documentaries such as March with the Penguins and the BBC’s Dynasties.
Migrating turtle doves will be shot down as they fly over Malta.
The Maltese government has sanctioned the slaughter of 5,000 European turtle doves as they fly over Malta in the last stages of their 5,600 km journey from wintering grounds in West Africa to breeding grounds in Europe.
Our fascination with intelligent parrots has a catastrophic impact on wild populations
When we’re looking for an animal to keep as a pet, we think about food, exercise and affordability. But how much thought do we give to where the animal comes from? When we buy exotic birds through online ads or breeders, we may unknowingly support the plunder of wild species. The African grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus) is one such species. Continue reading →
As cat ownership soars, we need a radical change in attitude to save mammals and songbirds from cats’ claws
Despite evidence from camera traps and Cat Tracker devices showing predatory behaviour, cat owners tend to describe their pets as too slow or too gentle to harm wildlife.
But Kitty is equally at home stalking wildlife as she is sleeping on our lap.
As human populations and domestic cat ownership explode, especially in urban areas, more small mammals and birds fall prey. When breeding can’t keep pace with predation, species numbers decline. Well-fed domestic cats might even be compared to trophy hunters in the sense they aren’t hunting for food.Continue reading →
A profile of volunteer Sylvia Durrant who has been caring for sick and injured birds on Auckland’s North Shore for over twenty years
Sylvia Durrant found her calling when she replied to an advert for an SPCA bird rescue volunteer. Sylvia’s previous career as a nurse had prepared her for this life-saving work with birds and educating the community. She is an inspiration, as I found out when I had the pleasure of meeting her.Continue reading →
A poem in the style of restaurant discourse to highlight the plight of New Zealand’s native birds
Although native birds are no longer (officially) eaten in New Zealand, I appeal to the reader’s sense of taste, while simultaneously stirring repulsion of how wild birds are killed.
Native birds are facing increasing threats from non-native predators such as possums, rats, stoats, cats and dogs, and also from human behaviour such as irresponsible pet ownership, beach and car use, hunting, longline fishing, overfishing and oil spills. Continue reading →
The winter carolings of Hardy’s frail thrush send a poignant message
My favourite poem, The Darkling Thrush highlights Hardy’s despair at the changes he witnessed as England’s agricultural based society was impacted by the industrial revolution. The narrator describes a bleak landscape that reflects this despair. He sees a “frail, gaunt, and small” thrush, suggesting that nature is also affected by the changes. Continue reading →