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Nature: Everybody knows about the bird....

.....Well actually they don't, says John Dempsey, who's off for a swift (one)

Published on April 24th 2009.

Nature: Everybody knows about the bird....

CLEAR skies and warm sun – perfect conditions for going out to look for new bird arrivals in the spring. Right?


Gorgeous as the weather has been over the last week, clear conditions mean many of our migrant birds move through the British Isles unseen, with just the occasional call from high above to give away the fact that so many flocksare on the move.

Nice bit of rain and a south easterly is what we need – birds land to feed in this type of weather, and are easier to find.

That said, it hasn’t stopped warblers arriving across the region, with whitethroats, sedge warblers and blackcaps joining the willow warblers and chiffchaffs, and grasshopper warblers making a great deal of noise so far.

These unobtrusive little birds can be heard “reeling” – their song is more like a cricket than a bird – from Inner Marsh Farm RSPB reserve near Burton, to Ainsdale sand dunes.

The coastline between Waterloo and Hightown is a good place to listen out for them too.

Redstarts and ring ouzels (no I haven’t made that name up) are highly prized passage migrants at this time of year, with birds seen on Wirral and up to Hesketh Out Marsh already.

While the good weather may make migrant hunting a bit trickier, it is brilliant for our butterflies – many are already on the wing and looking for food sources in parks and gardens.

Peacocks, small tortoiseshells, speckled woods, holly blue, green veined white and orange tips have all emerged in numbers over the last week, and are joined by comma, brimstone and large whites.

They’re at their freshest at this time of year, and can be seen spiralling around in territorial disputes and mating dances, or just basking in the sun in sheltered spots.

Global warming is giving a lot of species a hard time these days, as they are pushed further north to find suitable temperatures to flourish, so it’s good to see so many at the moment.


Swifts – now all our swallows and house martins have come zipping back for the summer, it’s time to keep an eye out for their bigger, darker and altogether more exciting cousin, the swift.

Long scythe shaped wings and a stubby body give it away, and they should be coming up from the south over the next week or so – listen for their harsh, screaming calls, that gave them the name “Devil Birds” – they’re what summer is all about!

Ivy leafed toadflax - easily overlooked, this common plant scrambles over many walls, from the city centre out to the suburbs. In milder years it can flower throughout the year, but it is at its best now – take a close look at the tiny lilac flowers – superb!

The dawn chorus – okay, you have to listen out for it, but garden birds are at their most vocal over the next few weeks. Doesn’t matter where you live – set the alarm real early one morning (6am or before), or stay up extra late

after a night out, open the window and enjoy the blackbirds, thrushes, robins and wrens doing their thing – how many can you identify on song alone before you’re told to shut the window and get over yourself?

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