Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Swallows on the move.

Today was another day with substantial numbers of both Swallows and House Martins moving along the cliff top. I guess our feeling is that they are leaving our shores, their "homes" for a winter break further south, but it is probable that they were essentially African birds that evolved to travel north to make use of our summer insects when they are breeding and this would enable them to move from an extremely crowded and competitive environment.

This is one of our local breeders, taking a rest from flying in and out of the stable by the paddock, to straighten out its feathers.
Many of these birds will fly across Europe and then the length of Africa to winter in South Africa. In 1978 I spent three months in Jo'burg working on the start up of a pharmaceutical plant, and just down the road there was a reed bed  with a roost of over two million Swallows. I'm not sure which part of their breeding range they would have come from, but it would certainly mean that they would have a round trip of around 12,000 miles.

There are still a lot of Chiffchaffs around. This is another migrant, but not such a long distance traveller. \most of or Chiffchaffs end up spending the winter in southern Europe and North Africa, around the Mediterranean Sea, a strategy many would like to follow. More Chiffchaffs are wintering in the UK as our winters are becoming milder. These birds will suffer in bad winters, but in mild ones have the advantage over their travelling sibling of missing the perils of the long migration flights.

As I wandered along the cliff top I noticed this Herring Gull, already with its winter head plumage. Gone is the bright gleaming white look, and instead its been replaced with a rather grubby shawl. 

Mothing last night was very poor, I didn't catch one migrant, but I did see just one Silver Y along the cliff top. This was about a foot from the edge, and as my phone said "Welcome to France" it must have been the closest Silver Y to the border photographed today.

Lots of birders have been searching the cliffs up at Langdon, looking for the Ortolan that I photographed last week, as it reappeared in the same place yesterday. Hoping that we might even find one on the Bockhill side of the village I did scrutinise the bushes carefully, and keep and ear open for the sound of Yellowhammers. Buntings often appear in mixed groups, they have an affinity when feeding and roosting that is probably due to the safety in numbers fact. All I did find with the couple of Yellowhammers I found was a Reed Bunting. Not a rarity, but a regular migrant in small numbers here.

I did sit for a while, contemplating the world, and I noticed that I was sharing the seat with a rather nice beetle. I really know little about beetles, but I think that this one might be a Knotgrass Leaf Beetle (Chrysolina polita). I might well be wrong, If you know I am and know what it is, pleas leave a message below.

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