Signs of Spring

Over the last week or so I have noticed that the fieldfares and redwings are gathering in large groups, getting increasingly fractious and noisy. These large chuckling groups suggest the impending departure of our winter visitors. In fact the first of the fieldfares probably left last month; over the next few weeks they will continue to wend their way back to Scandinavia where they will spend their summer.

Pied Flycatcher by Stefan Johansson

Pied Flycatcher by Stefan Johansson

As these gregarious winter visitors leave our summer visitors start to arrive. On Easter Sunday I saw my first pied flycatcher of the year, always a joyous occasion to think that these birds have made the gruelling journey back from Western Africa safely. A beautiful bird it is a member of the ubiquitous red list which means it is declining because of habitat loss and climate change.

Chiffchaffs have been heard out on many of our reserves, it is always lovely to hear this passerine, however it is even lovelier to hear some of the other warblers whose song is a little more varied. Willow and grasshopper warblers were heard on Rhos Cefn Bryn just at the end of March bringing with them a sense of spring marching in.

Meadow pipits were also seen on Rhos Cefn Bryn, returning from wintering in southern Europe and North Africa. Their old names are no longer used, but "chit lark", "peet lark", "tit lark" and "titling" have a certain appeal. These birds are important for another summer visitor, the cuckoo. The cuckoo uses meadow pipit nests to lay their eggs in and whilst it is still a little early for this elusive but very audible bird they cannot be too far away.

Off Skomer and Skokholm Islands the first puffins were rafting out at sea over the last few weeks and some made landfall in the last week or so. These comic birds seem to spend their winter out in the Atlantic although new geo locator information will reveal more over the next year or so.

Manx shearwater are also making their way back to the islands, these astonishing birds spend almost their entire life on the wing. The migration it makes is one of the more incredible ones, they follow the trade winds south until reaching the coast of Argentina, where they spend their time feeding out at sea, before then heading north up the coast of the Americas and finally heading east to land again on Skomer and Skokholm.

Nora the osprey being ringed as a 5 week old chick at Rutland Water

Nora the osprey being ringed as a 5 week old chick at Rutland Water

The two ospreys have returned to Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust’s nature reserve up on the Dyfi estuary. These birds, so rare in Wales, have spent their winter months travelling down through Africa and feeding in the warmer climate. It will be an exciting summer and hopefully they will have as successful a breeding season as last year.

There are rumours of swallows, house martins, sand martins and swifts being seen, although I have seen none as yet in the hills of Carmarthenshire. There is a bit of me that is longing to hear the screaming of the swifts, the sound of summer.

By L Maiden