Nature Notes: Swallow numbers down, but large waterfowl broods
HERE in the south of Teesdale, few house flies have so far turned up and there has been an absence of those little black thunder bugs that as a rule appear at harvest time.
I think maybe those hard frosts caused many insect populations to drop.
The unpredictable spring weather across southern Europe seems have affected some migrant birds on their journey from Africa.
Certainly, the numbers of swallows are dramatically down as were many early warblers, chiffchaffs and willows.
With regards to swallows, for the first time in donkeys years, my garage has lacked a nest, plus the early vanguard will have found food in short supply due to the cool weather in spring.
For some reason this year, wildfowl have produced large broods of young at Smallways wetlands.
Mallards were noted during March with ducklings in tow, some number ten-plus.
Normally, very few survive their first few months, some being preyed on by predators and the cold weather accounting for the demise of others. That’s why some species of birds can have up to a dozen young. So long as a small percentage survive, they will sustain the population.
The heavy rain came at a bad time for the wetlands’ avocets as nests were washed out with their eggs but they two did produce four chicks which, to my knowledge, fledged.
Although breeding was low at times, 20-plus adults were present.
Hopefully next year they will have a better breeding season.
A regular visitor to both Smallways wetland and Thorpe is the little egret. I noted three at the latter end of July. They were most probably non-breeding birds wandering around the country.
They have colonised in the UK, moving from southern Europe due to climate change.
The same applies to other species of waterside birds. Spoonbills and others are becoming observed on a regular basis in the south and west of Britain.
Twice during the past three years, a spoonbill has visited Thorpe Farm wetland and once established it will be a real benefit to our wildlife to be able to note them in Teesdale.
Dave Moore is a wildlife enthusiast from Hutton Magna