Spring is here - or at least the birds think so

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SPRING has sprung the grass has riz, I wonder where the birdies iz. Isn’t it good to see how much confidence the birds have in the never ending cycle of the seasons?

Frantic activity of birds carrying twigs and other nesting materials makes me have more confidence in them than in the weather forecasters. Even the local and national forecasts on the same TV channel can’t agree what is going to happen next.

It is possible now to see last year’s nests being renovated. Wood pigeons’ and magpies’ nests are easy to observe at this time of year before the leaves are out on the trees but smaller nests are usually much better concealed. Blackbirds are among the first birds to lay eggs and young birds could be expected to be seen any time now.

Working in the garden when it is warm enough can be a rewarding experience as nature gets active after the winter. You only have to disturb the soil to have blackbirds and robins keeping you company as they dive after worms.

We got a swan brought up from Herrington Country Park in County Durham a few weeks ago after being badly bitten by a dog. The following day another swan was shot with an air gun in the same place. Even worse was a case of eight swans having been shot by air guns on the Somerset Levels. Only one survived. Over the past couple of weeks reports kept coming in of more swans being shot dead and the latest information I have is that 31 swans have been killed.

It makes me wonder what sort of mind makes someone take pleasure from shooting swans for no reason whatsoever other than that of getting some satisfaction from being clever enough to hit a sitting target.

We got an email telling us about a couple of dead swans on the Tweed near East Ord. One of them had a green plastic ring on one leg. A quick email to the man who puts green rings on swans brought an immediate response with full details of where and when it was born (Musselburgh in 2005) and details of all reported sightings since then. It seems to have spent its life travelling up and down the coast between Musselburgh and Berwick. This sort of information is useful in finding out a bit about birds’ habits and life expectancy, so if you ever see a bird with a ring on its leg please let us know. It doesn’t have to be dead to fit a piece into the jigsaw.

A ringed barn owl that was found dying at Eyemouth on December 22 was reported to the British Trust for Ornithology then and a report has come back giving the information that it had been ringed as a nestling in Dumfries and Galloway on June 4, 2010. The bird had lived for 201 days and travelled 103km only to die in the severely cold weather when food must have been hard to find. As it takes over three months to get word back from the BTO, we find it better to contact the ringers direct wherever possible. This is most useful when the birds in question have been patients of ours.

Enjoy spring. Nature waking up after the winter is a refreshing experience. Oh, and the Eyemouth swans seem to have become an item, so maybe a nest is not out of the question.

BARRIE MORTIMER

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