Basin Notes - May 2002

Return of Basin Birds

Spring is sprung,
The grass is ris;
I wonders where the birdies is?
The birdie's on the wing.
But wait a moment, that's absurd -
I thought the wing was on the bird....

It is sometimes strange that writers talk about people visiting the countryside to appreciate nature. This might be walking, cycling or just visiting the seaside. Everyone accepts that this is an enjoyable and healthy thing to do. The strangeness comes from the implied assumption that in town and cities we are somehow insulated from nature and need to escape the built environment to regain an acquaintance with the natural world.

In fact, we are not really that remote from the forces of nature, even in the largest town. As our remote ancestors have done for millions of years, we react to day and night, wind, rain and sunshine. The joy of a clear spring day is a feeling we all have experienced whether in the deepest skyscraper canyon or out on the hills.

Spring, that time of renewal of life, is an ideal time to look for that connection with nature that will lift the jaded spirit and establish a link that will last all year without having to "visit" somewhere for a quick fix.

The displays of daffodils at the Wildlife Centre have been spectacular and the primroses are now showing well. Other plants, shrubs and trees are all putting out new, green shoots with the promise of colourful growth to come. These signs of spring can be found in the smallest garden or even window box.

But now "I wonders where the birdies is?". This verse is known to many but it's simple pun belies the deeper question of the author. The answer, of course, is migration. The waders, ducks and geese who are winter visitors to the Basin are nearly all gone. The summer visitors like the sand martin, chiffchaff and swallow have just arrived with more to follow. The graceful falling notes of the willow warbler will soon compete with the scratchy random call of the sedge warbler in wet places all over the country.

We can all look out for this and marvel at the changes occurring under our very noses. Many people have been keeping track of the changing population of birds in their garden over the winter months and are now returning their forms to the Wildlife Centre for checking. There are no prizes for this apart from the pleasure in watching the birds and contributing to a greater understanding local gardens' importance for wintering birds. All forms should be returned by the end of April even if they are only partially completed - the information is still of value.

Now the avid garden watcher can concentrate on their patch as a nesting site and look out for adults collecting nesting material and, later on in the summer, harvesting the abundant insects to feed their young. The blue tit nest box camera at the Wildlife Centre is showing increasing amounts of nest material and the female has been meticulously creating a hollow for the eggs in the middle of the mound of grass and moss.

Hopefully she will successfully put "the wing on the bird" and give us many "birdies on the wing" to look out for next winter.