Thursday, 27 April 2017

400 Pairs

Like little floating corks, black balls of fluff follow a pair of moorhens close by the reeds at Oxwich Marsh. A soaring buzzard sends the chicks scurrying onto land; seemingly all legs, vestigial wings and punk feathers, they appear reptilian. The first brood of yellow ducklings keeps close to a female mallard and from secret nests others will gradually appear, and if the season is kind, large crèches may eventually form. In contrast noisy greylags stand around in pairs and may not even have started nesting. They’re recent colonists to the marsh, and are increasing here, as in most other parts of Wales.

Sedge warblers have arrived now, and are singing well in the rough patches of gorse near the village, and the reed warblers are trickling in. If I can get myself out of bed early enough, the marsh will be alive with song at dawn in a couple of week’s time. Since the early 1960s, reed warbler numbers have increased at Oxwich to about 400 breeding pairs, amazing since they are very near the western edge of their range here. Sedge warblers have not fared as well, but Oxwich is still the best place to find them on Gower.

Resident birds have been busy.  Some early blackbirds and collard doves have fledged, and the first naked starlings are falling out of nests, but mostly the season is getting off to a late start. Blue tits and robins built nests in our garden weeks ago, but now wait to soft-line them. Eggs will only be laid at the right time, since they need to have their young when caterpillar numbers peak.

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