April 2012

The end of March is upon us and we can all congratulate ourselves on surviving the infamous ides of March. Spring is well and truly sprung and we can see spring flowers blooming everywhere. Primroses haven’t formed the great swathes of colour we saw the year before last. As I understand it primroses take two years before they start to flower in the wild, so last years bad winter, coupled with the one we have just had (maybe not so harsh but seemingly endless) will have set their numbers back for several years to come.

Although the pace of life is picking up I am going to be sorry to see all the birds that have flocked to our feeders disperse, either locally back into the fields and woods to breed or on migration to their summer quarters. We have had three bramblings and a pair of siskins in residence over the last 6-8 weeks and they have really livened up the garden. At the time of the RSPB Big Garden Watch we were able to record 26 species of bird in the garden over a period of just one hour.

Bramblings are quite rare down here, siskins even more so. Fortunately I was able to confirm the siskins to our local RSPB guru by photograph and was pleased to learn it was only the third recorded sighting on the Roseland. But migration throws up all sorts of oddities. Some are passage migrants heading through a region that are thrown off course, maybe by an unseasonal gale, whilst others simply head the wrong way and become known as vagrants. We are lucky here to be on the British west coast flyway, although we may be a little too far west for the main north south routes. Birds come north from Africa and cross the Mediterranean either via the Middle East, the Italian peninsular or across the straights of Gibraltar.

Our migrants can come from any of these gateways, depending on species and where a local sub population spends its winters. Crossing France they head for La Manche and cross where their peers show them to cross. This tends to be further east than we are because then the crossing isn’t as short and such a crossing also leads them naturally to the west Britain estuaries, which are such important feedibng stations. The Bristol Channel, the Dee, the Mersey, the Ribble and Morecambe bay are all service stations programmed into a migrating bird’s Sat Nav. But as I say, some get it wrong and may head east not west, south not north and so on. I have been sent some exciting pictures of very rare birds (for the Roseland anyway) that a local resident was lucky enough to spot and capture with a digital camera recently. I have to say I have never seen any of these in Britain, let alone Cornwall so I am very jealous! So, a simple question, “What are these three species of bird called?” My Thanks to Averill Pool, the real local expert on these matters; I know she knows what they are!

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