Thursday, 23 March 2017

Out of Africa

After a morning of heady rain, clear watery light on the newly painted lifeboat house at Mumbles greets the arrival of the kittiwakes to the pier. They won't start nesting for a while, but having them back makes the heart beat a little faster.  Sparkling in clean summer plumage, more than a hundred rest and preen on the iron superstructure ready for the long summer ahead. It's a time of change. Most black-headed gulls have gone, and those that remain have brown heads. Turnstones, still in drab winter garb, roost between tides on the boat slip, but will be off north soon. A brimstone butterfly looking lost, flies over the sea and a bee collects pollen from the stamens of a  crocus flower in a pot by the pier restaurant. 

There are millions of birds moving out of Africa at present, and the headland by the lighthouse is a first landing on Gower from across the Bristol Channel for a male wheatear. They're arriving in good numbers now, but I hear disturbing news of this smart trans-Saharen migrant. The BTO reports that Wales has lost at least a quarter of its breeding wheatears in the last 15 years, and there have been significant reductions in Scotland.  This first wave of arrivals will be followed by the larger Greenland race, these true long distant travellers migrating a full 5,000 miles. The plight of wheatears is not unique; many of our small summer visitors are also in serious decline, and the reasons are complicated.

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