Sunday, 9 April 2017

Warbler fall

Swansea is blessed with parks and formal gardens. A legacy from the Victorians, they provide solitude and wildlife experiences for young and old. Only a stone’s throw from the sea, Brynmill Park is a little gem. Tall exotic trees blend with natives above orderly, immaculately kept flowerbeds, surrounding a busy lake fringed with weeping willows and beds of shining marsh marigolds. Gulls, moorhens, coots, little grebes and tufted ducks bustle about on the water, tame after generations of visitors ‘feeding the ducks’. The bowling green, with its charming wooden pavilion looks out on the billiard-table grass ready for the season ahead. There are no serious white-coated players with black bowls yet, just smart blackbirds digging holes in the near perfect turf.

High up above the water, a ballet of swallows and sand martins goes unnoticed by families with prams and dogs. Alive with chiffchaffs and willow warblers, the small trees and shrubs by the lake edge provide a magical experience. Fly-catching for invisible insects, these delicate little birds quietly and delicately sally to and from the waters edge, sometimes four or five in view at a time. A few sing softly, but it’s not the serious business of territory, or looking for a mate, more a muted sub-song. There must be a hundred or more around the lake, forced down from their northward journey by recent overnight rains to this sheltered oasis. Unless they sing, they’re difficult to tell apart, but the bright spring pastel-lemon yellows of willow warblers sometimes stand out against the more dusky shades of chiffchaffs. This energy of visible migration never fails to inspire me; bumping into a fall like this is down to luck, as is the now resident ring-necked parakeet high in the trees overhead.

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