Birds on your doorstep

Cuckoo resting on post.
Cuckoo resting on post.

Have you seen or heard a cuckoo yet - our iconic symbol of spring?

Cuckoos, like so many other insectivorous birds that nest in the UK and winter in Africa, like swallows, martins, swifts, wheatears, swifts, turtle doves and quails and warblers, are in serious decline.

One reason is the appalling numbers that are shot or caught, as they cross the Mediterranean, including Malta, where there was a historic spring hunting referendum on 11th April which the hunters won by just 2,200 votes - 50.4% for, 49.6 against. They celebrated by riding around sounding their horns and shooting into the air. To add insult to injury, they even brought a prosecution against BirdLife Malta for illegal possession of protected species which had been found illegally shot and brought in to be seen by a vet! You can read more about it on the internet.

Meanwhile, it is all the more important to do what we can to help those spring migrants that do make it back here at home. Make sure swallows and martins have access to nest sites and mud for building - a watering can is helpful in prolonged hot spells. Do swifts have access to their nests under roof tiles? (visit www.swift-conservation.org for “Keeping the Skies Alive”).

Refrain from looking into birds’ nests and nestboxes - it can make them desert, particularly in the early stages of building and egg-laying; peeping into a nest full of fledglings can frighten them into scattering too soon.

Every little bit we can do helps to avoid the possibility of a “Silent Spring” for future generations.