The Month in Birds – May 07

The first Swallow was reported in Firle on 5th April, and about a week later they were being seen in lots of places, prospecting last year’s nesting sites or shooting through on their way north. At least three House Martins appeared over the village on 13th, and we can now expect to hear them chattering away above (and often in) our rooftops until mid-October. Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs continued to increase, and not far away at Arlington Reservoir new arrivals came thick and fast – on the morning of 13th there was Lesser Whitethroat and Willow Warbler, Cuckoo and Yellow Wagtail. Summer migrants are like buses. You wait all winter, then four turn up at once.

Amidst the new arrivals, the disappearance of our winter visitors was less noticeable. The ones that catch the attention are those that we don’t see so often, but pass through on the way north – such as the group of around 25 Siskins that dropped into a pine tree near Firle School early in April. Further to the extraordinary appearance of the Glaucous Gull in mid-March, what was almost certainly the same bird was reported again in Firle Park two weeks later. Had it been stopping off regularly throughout the winter, without being noticed?

May is when the jigsaw is completed by the final summer birds. Early in the month Swifts will start screaming overhead alongside the martins, and hopefully Spotted Flycatchers will return to some of our gardens (their recent rapid decline means that it’s not a certainty). Hobbies will be back on territory and chasing the first emergence of dragonflies, and if it’s a good year, the odd Quail might be heard singing. Birding lore dictates that its call sounds like ‘wet my lips’, but I think this requires an overactive imagination. No need for that these days, because you can listen to a recording on the RSPB website.

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