With the sweltering weather we have had over the past week, it seems a bit odd to be talking about spring. That time of year has come around again, when the wonder of the natural world is thrust into our living room with all the frivolity that is Springwatch. Once again the show is coming from the wonderful RSPB reserve of Ynys-Hir.
In much the same way that I got thinking about my Grand Slam Of Birds XV rugby team, I started thinking about if Springwatch was hosted by birds, which ones would get the job. So here I give you my presenters*, feel free to make your own suggestions in the comments box below.
*Any likeness to the real presenters is purely deliberate!
The show would clearly need to be fronted by a respected and intelligent host. They would also be prone to occasional bouts of head banging. Their famous shock of hair would also be a talking point. They would have been remembered for being on children’s television when you were younger; imparting their wisdom to a generation. Even their poo would be a talking point, the pellets made up from the hundreds of exoskeletons of the ants that form its diet. I would choose the Green Woodpecker, or Professor Yaffle to be my main front man.
The female co presenter would be a creature of diminutive beauty. This bird always makes you smile when you see or hear it. It has a relative calmness about it, and voice that makes you stop and pay attention; it is one of the best known birds by novices and seasoned bird watchers alike. It still retains that mischievous glint in its eye. I would choose the Robin to co-present with my Green Woodpecker.
My third main presenter would have to be another wise bird, synonymous with the countryside at large, and like Professor Yaffle, one commonly depicted with glasses perched on the end of its nose. It would need to have, dare I say it, a tussled look. It would be known for being slightly boisterous, and getting over excited at times. The Tawny Owl would be my final main presenter of the show.
But what of the guest presenters ….?
From Wales we would need a part time resident of Skomer Island, and one with a wonderful lisping accent. Their Pufflets would bring joy to the nation all week! I am of course talking about the wonderful bird synonymous with that island, the Puffin.
From Ireland I would choose a songster to reflect the wonderful accent. A bird of grace and charm and voice that lifts the soul, it would have to be the Song Thrush.
From England we would have the bad boy of the show, but in a loveable rogue sort of way. This bird would need to be cheeky, a bit of a boy about town, but full of fun and mischief. There is only one bird that fits that bill, and that is the Starling.
Keeping a watch on the chaos that the main avian presenters could cause, we would need someone quite level headed. Surely the Kestrel would fit this bill. Whilst all the others were getting in a flap, there hovering in the background the Kestrel would be rock steady, her eagle eye keeping a sharp look out at the proceedings going on all around. She will of course be able to turn to an old head in the shape of the Bearded Tit if they all get too out of hand.
I think this line up would keep as entertained as the real life presenters, Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan, Martin Hughes- Games, Iolo Williams, Liz Bonnin and Charlie Hamilton James will be giving us over the next few weeks. I, for one, am looking forward to catching up with the Dyfi Ospreys and their remarkable stories as they return from their migration, and the BTO Cuckoo’s that were radio tagged last year. This year’s show features live footage from inside a Kingfisher nest, and that really has to be something worth looking forward too!
Picture Credits: Tawny Owl fledgling by kind permission and © Nigel Desmond. Robin picture © Anthony Walton
Spring has finally arrived, or is this week of warm weather summer, and spring has decided to have a year off? It must be spring as Springwatch starts on Monday from RSPB Ynys-hir. I am like most of you I simply can’t wait for the show to get started. It is definitely one of the TV highlights of the year for me.
I decided to get out and about with the scope this week. I don’t take the scope out often enough really; I am usually weighed down with a long lens and a camera. I had a glamorous assistant with me in the shape of my wife, Dawn, and my trusty side kick Nigel, who knows a thing or two about the Uskmouth and Goldcliff area.
We headed to the Goldcliff end of the reserve first. It is the first time I have been there since the new hide has been open. My last visit there yielded a Great White Egret, which I blogged about being The Next Big Thing, little did I know then, that at a secret location somewhere in Somerset, two were already in the process of becoming just that by building a nest!
There were no Great White Egrets there this week, but there was plenty else to watch. I must admit, the scope does bring the scrapes to life. You forget how well camouflaged the birds are, and it is only when you zoom in you can make out waders at the water’s edge. You can, of course, also use a decent set of binoculars, but with the scope, you can start to get to grips with some of the confusion species. I still have a lot to learn when it comes to waders. During my last visit to Frampton Marshes I was introduced to the Curlew Sandpiper by a friendly birder there. I would never have known what it was if I had seen it alone. This is part of the fun of still being a beginner bird watcher, there is still so much to learn, and the best way of doing it is in the field. When it is in full summer plumage the bird is a wonderful russet red colour, when it is still in its winter plumage it is a lot easier to mistake it for a Dunlin. It was explained to me to look for a longer, more curved down bill than the Dunlin. It tends to feed deeper in the water than other waders of similar size.
The one wader I am pretty confident on is the Redshank. There were a number at Goldcliff this week. Its wonderful red/orange legs with its knees on back to front are a clear identification pointers, and its long orange beak with a black tip is a great tool for searching for food in the mud banks of the lagoons and shorelines it frequents. Keep an eye out in amongst Redshanks for their close relative the Greenshank, as the name suggests, they have green legs.
Another bird that is blessed with a splash of claret is the wonderful Oystercatcher. It is black and white like a Magpie but with a large red beak with which it can crack open oysters and it is how it derives its name. I have been fortunate to watch one feeding on several occasions at close quarters from a hide, and it is truly fascinating to see; nature provides the most brilliant tools for the job at times.
The sky was full of the sights and sounds of Lapwings. I have wanted to get a photograph of a Lapwing in flight for some time now, and with the sun beating down, the conditions were perfect for trying to get one. It is no easy task; they are very erratic fliers, changing direction and dive bombing in an instant, and all the time making their distinctive “pew-wit” call. Despite thirty to forty attempts I only managed two decent photos of the bird “in action”.
In amongst this wonderful kaleidoscope of colour and sound were dotted decent numbers of the RSPB’s favourite wader, the Avocet. Goldcliff is home to good numbers of these birds, and the new hides are brilliant places to watch them. There are probably about 30+ birds there that I saw, and one of the few places in Wales to see them in such good numbers!
We walked back to the car with the sun still shining, and wearing short sleeves for the first time this year, thinking it doesn’t have to be winter to see good numbers of waders at the shore!
And some late breaking news … A Black Winged Stilt has turned up at Goldcliff today (Friday), may even be the same one we saw at Frampton!
© All Photographs - Anthony Walton
If you're celebrating this summer’s Jubilee and Olympics, we're asking you to think twice before setting off fireworks, releasing balloons and lighting sky lanterns to ensure pets, wildlife and livestock aren’t frightened or even killed. To find out more go to www.rspb.org.uk/wales