With Roger Ballantine

SPRING HAS SPRUNG

Spring has definitely begun many daffodils have already flowered as well as buds on bushes and trees. The birds too have started to welcome the milder weather. Our first summer migrants will be arriving shortly. The first to arrive is usually the Wheatear, which arrives on the coast . Our first could be the Sand Martin appearing over the lakes. A small brown bird with a white belly. They hunt, insects, flying very fast over water. My earliest date was 8th March over Durleigh Reservoir. There may be a trickle of others arriving but the main arrival will be next month. Meanwhile a pair of Magpies have built their nest across the rhyne from our house and she is sitting.

Many of our residents are signing and taking up territory. One of the most territorial is the Robin and I was lucky to see two sprawling on the floor the other day. They are very aggressive. If you have a nest box, Blue or Great Tits will readily take up residence, last year Great Tits started in the box but were turfed out by Blue Tits with success. Many of us have hedges and bushes that Blackbirds and Dunnocks will readily use. I’ve heard stories of Magpies predating these nests but it is nature. Our Country Park provides vast opportunities for breeding for a variety of birds. One of our smaller birds is the Stonechat which bred last year. Often seen perched on posts or tall lookout positions then flying into the air to catch passing insects or dropping to the ground for insects. The male has a black head with a white collar and orangey chest, the female is more a brown colour. You can often get close to these before they fly down to the next post or perch . Of course our Mallards and Moorhens will be producing their young very soon. It’s always good to see 8 to 10 little Mallard ducklings trailing after mother, unfortunately, not all will make it. Moorhen chicks are like little balls of fluff when they first emerge. Both these chicks are vulnerable to predators, including Gulls. Specking of which, how come they are called Sea Gulls when we see them more in town. Well actually there is no “Sea” gull. What we have on the lakes are Herring gulls, the biggest, grey and white with lots of darker coloured juveniles. The smaller gulls are Black Headed Gull, who actually have a brown head in breeding plumage and a red bill . Occasionally the Lesser Black backed Gull will be a visitor, its black back distinctive. The Little Grebe May return and breed again, listen for a shrill call from the reeds. A pair of Swans may also look hear to breed. Our winter Thrushes will be departing and our summer migrants will be arriving with exciting times ahead, keep your eyes and ears open. I am a member of the Somerset Ornithology Society and would like to hear of your sighting, especially any breeding successes, I record then and send them on.