With the cold, easterly winds we’ve experienced recently, Spring had a bit of a false start this year (see article “Spring has sprung-with a hop” posted on 7/03/2013). But there was a definite change in the air, during the last 10 days or so. The winds of change resulted in warmer temperatures and nature responded wholeheartedly. Insects have emerged, flowers are blossoming and masses of migrant birds have been flooding in.
If you visit Mount Stewart or Castleward at the moment, you will see the Swallows darting in and out of every available open doorway or window, in the search for suitable nesting sites.
And the woods are now alive with the sound of singing birds, all determined to announce their claim to territory and attract a mate. Noticeably absent until last week were Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and Blackcaps. But like the Swallows, these birds now appear to be everywhere, having successfully completed their arduous migration from Africa and are preparing for a busy breeding season.
On the side of my house in Strangford, there are a number of House Martin nests. I find it absolutely incredible that such a delicate looking bird can fly thousands of miles to sub-Saharan Africa and successfully manage to return to its same nest, every year. Some people don’t like the mess they make on the side of the house, but they are very welcome on mine. I feel somehow privileged that they choose to share my house for the summer. In fact, I have put up some artificial nests to encourage more.
Each spring, I look forward to the arrival of the first House Martins with excited anticipation. As I look up at them, peering out of their mud nests, I can’t help wondering what adventures they have had and sites that they have seen, since they left here last autumn. I’m sure they are glad to be safely back home.
Exciting as it is to see the return of our summer breeding birds, it is also the time of year we have to say goodbye to many of our winter visitors. We have been very fortunate this year to have had our garden visited daily since Christmas by a flock of Brambling. These colourful finches mainly breed in Scandinavia but spend the winter further south. They are very fond of the sunflower seeds we have been putting out for them.
The very day that we saw the first House Martins arrive at the house (Tuesday 16th April), was the same day that we noticed the Bramblings had gone. The same warm, southerly wind that brought our African migrants, was also the signal to our winter visitors that it was time they also started their northerly migration.
So the seasonal cycle continues. I am already looking forward to seeing the return of the first Brambling next winter.