He rises and begins to round,
He drops the silver chain of sound,
Of many links without a break,
In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake.
~ from the poem ‘The Lark Ascending’ by English poet George Meredith, 1881
birding, birdwatching, British birds, Broad-bodied Chaser, Cockchafer, Common heath moth, Glamorgan Bird Club, Meadow pipit, Skylark, Small heath butterfly, St David's Vale, Stonechat, Tree pipit, Whinchat, Willow warbler
I might also have called this blog post ‘One hundred and eighty!’. Let me explain …
Last Wednesday I joined fourteen other members of the Glamorgan Bird Club for a day’s birding in the stunning scenery of St David’s Vale, near Abergavenny. We walked part of an ancient hollow way …
Beneath mighty oaks in an equally ancient woodland carpeted with bluebells …
And then, as the sun broke through the low cloud that had earlier floated across the border from England, we climbed up on to the broad open moorland, with panoramic views all around and the impressive peak of Sugarloaf looming to our right.
Most of the birds mocked my photographic skills and no-so-long lens as they perched on distant tree tops and bushes but I was delighted to hear and then see my very first Wood warbler, and then, on the moorland, several beautiful Whinchats. And those two sightings brought my year list to – yes, you guessed it – one hundred and eighty!
Our keen amateur naturalists also spotted a Small heath butterfly and two Common heath moths (this is the male; the female landed on my trouser leg so another birder got that picture), and a Broad-bodied chaser dragonfly. And we were entertained by the bumbling flights of several Cockchafers (I’ll cover those in a future post.)
My bird list for the today was: Mistlethrush, Robin, Goldfinch, Blackbird, Great tit, Carrion crow, Meadow pipit, Willow warbler, Swallow, Woodpigeon, Blue tit, Blackcap, Skylark, Buzzard, Chaffinch, Garden warbler, Long-tailed tit, Wood warbler, Stonechat, Raven, Tree pipit, Linnet, Whinchat, Wren, Cuckoo, House sparrow, Pied wagtail, Dunnock, Magpie and Jackdaw. It was a perfectly wonderful day!
birding, birdwatching, Black-headed gull, Common tern, Gadwall, Lapwing, Marsh harrier, Oystercatchers, Ringed plover, Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, sheep, Shelduck, Skylark, Sussex Wildlife Trust guided walk
I celebrated my birthday, with my friend Jill, with a quick morning romp around the bird hides at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, followed by an afternoon Sussex Wildlife Trust guided walk around the inland part of the reserve, including a peek inside the normally locked Camber Castle. And what a superb day it was!
I’ve already blogged about one of the highlights, the gorgeous Avocets and their chicks; another was hearing, and catching a fleeting glimpse of my very first Cuckoo. Here are a few more (not so crisp) photos of the wonderful (but mostly distant) wildlife we saw: Common terns, Skylark, Oystercatchers and Dunlin, Black-headed gull, Ringed plover, Gadwall and Shelduck, Lapwing and a Pied wagtail, Marsh harrier, and a number 72; plus, not pictured, Redshank, Coot, Cormorant, Tufted duck, Mallard, Little ringed plover, Grey heron, Kestrel and Whitethroat, as well as the more common birds. A birthday to remember!
It’s easy to see where the ‘happy as a lark’ expression comes from when you hear a Skylark singing – they sound like they’re positively bursting with happiness. And, though they sing throughout the year, spring is the prime season for their singing, as the males perform their vertical flight displays, hovering and belting out their songs from high in the sky before plummeting back down to earth. How could a female Skylark not be impressed with such melodic rhapsodies!
When it’s on the ground, the Skylark (Alauda arvensis) can be difficult to spot, as its streaky brown colours blend so well with its preferred habitat, of grassland and moorland, as you can see in these photos, taken on top of The Blorenge, a 561-metre mountain in the Brecon Beacons National Park.
Sadly, the once numerous Skylark has declined greatly in numbers in recent years and it’s now on the British Red List of Birds of Conservation Concern. Its decline has been attributed to agricultural intensification and to changing farming practices – many farmers have switched from spring to autumn for the sowing of their cereal crops, which has a knock-on effect on farmland birds. Hopefully, something can be done to rescue these beautiful songsters; otherwise the Skylark will be happy no longer.