The Stork is known throughout the world as a symbol of fertility, this is an ancient legend that evolved into the cartoon Storks you see today carrying babies and delivering them to parents, but one that everyone is familiar with. This familiarity has lead the Stork to be one of the most recognised birds in the world but in the UK it is one bird that is not often seen, the reason for that is simple....they dont reside here!
However....as Spring continues Storks are being seen in the skies over the UK, but they aren't bringing babies with them this time! Yes that's right, the White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) which is a scarce visitor to the UK has been spotted numerous times in the past few weeks and here at Wildlife Enquiries we are receiving more and more reports of them. The White Stork is a large white bird with black wings and red legs and beak. They breed anywhere from North Africa up through Europe and into Asia. They have a large wing span of up to 7ft in length, to put that into perspective the Common Buzzard reaches around 4 1/2 ft with the Red Kite reaching 6ft wingspan. From underneath these birds have half white and half black wings, they fly with a succession of fast wing beats before then going into a glide. Their diet can be quite varied, anything from worms, frogs and toads to voles, fish and lizards.
In recent weeks reports of White Storks in the UK have increased with sightings coming from Essex, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Devon, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Cheshire, Buckinghamshire, Durham and Northumberland. There have even been sightings of groups of Storks (the collective term is a 'Muster') with 6 flying over Llandudno in Wales and 8 in a field in Worcestershire.
With the reporting of birds it is always important to get things correct and we do appreciate that often these Stork sightings could be anything from Little Egrets to Herons and it is important to also remember that many of these Storks are not wild birds but are of captive origin, often escapees from zoo's, falconry centres, wildfowl and private collections, often the presence of a closed ring around the leg can help determine this and if the bird is relatively tame this can also help idenitfy its origins but they are birds that nest around human habitation and are usually used to the presence of people.
In 1416 the only recorded nesting attempt occured on St Giles Catherdral in the heart of Edinburgh's Old Town and not until 2004 was a nesting attempt recorded again when 2 birds (one of captive origin and one of possible wild origin) attempted to nest on a pylon in West Yorkshire (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/west_yorkshire/3653171.stm).
However in the last week we have not just had reports of many Storks being seen but also of Storks nest building including this one named "Harry" in Nottinghamshire that is nesting on the roof of a restaurant in Mansfield....
These nesting attempts are of lone birds doing what comes naturally to them and but no means genuine nesting attempts yet, they need partners first but very interesting to see and certainly facinating to all of us in the Wildlife Enquiries Department.
Remember if you see a White Stork then you can report your sightings to the Birdtrack Service ran in conjuction by the BTO, RSPB, SOC and Birdwatch Ireland (http://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/birdtrack), it also worth recording any sightings via the Spring Alive Website which can be found here - http://www.springalive.net/
Keep those eyes to the skies (or on top of a house!)