New outfits and new adventures for bird life
By Conservation Officer Kevin O'Hara
There are many changes afoot at the minute among our wildlife. It can be a time of great excitement, or even heartbreak as all the effort comes to nothing, but one thing for certain is that it's never dull.
The dreaded mother-in-law said the other week: "There are no birds in me garden and I've seen that blasted hawk about again."
Quick as a flash I said: "Well he mustn't have eaten them all because he's still hanging around." There was no reply, just "the look".
But why do they all suddenly disappear for a few days at this time of the year? The answer is simple: they are moulting and getting their new suit on.
When their flight feathers are moulting they skulk about in thick cover avoiding detection, as they can't fly away until the new feathers come through.
Elsewhere, it is a time of exodus, with the first summer migrants such as the swift already gone, and the warblers are now winding their way south. Last to leave will be the swallows and martins, who hang on until late September and sometimes early October.
This week on my travels I saw late broods of house martin and swallows still in the nest, and species such as blackcap, whitethroat and chiff chaff all seem to have done well.
Also, this past week, I saw several family groups around the hedgerows of South East Northumberland.
They will need these extra numbers too, as harsh times lie ahead on migration, not least of which will be running the gauntlet of the Sahara desert.
What is more problematic are the many Mediterranean islands they cross. Here, "hunters" lie in wait with gun, net and glue to ensnare millions of birds.
I took my own stand this year and cancelled my holiday to Cyprus. I have never been and really fancied going as I like the Med, but after considering that up to 1.4 million songbirds are killed for an illegal food delicacy each year I said no and cancelled, and let them know why. Not sure what good my individual stance may have done, but at least I made it!
So that's me off to Bognor Regis then - bon voyage!
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