Nature and Conservation


Wildlife Ways May 2017


Well, as I am typing today, it feels like summer has arrived – from grey days struggling to get into double figures, it seems that following a full day of torrential rain we’ve hit the high 20’s almost overnight!  Not that I’m complaining, I love the warm weather, more so when there is a beach to walk on and no work to do.

Along with the warm weather, May has also brought the house martins back to our artificial nest and, yet more exciting – the swifts have returned to the space above.  The poor house sparrows have yet again been turfed out having dutifully filled the space with fresh nesting material in readiness for their own nesting attempts.  May has also brought the first cuckoos of the year, one at Langford Lowfields and one at Budby South Forest (both RSPB reserves)– sadly not locally but exciting all the same.  

There are two things in the natural world which automatically transport me smiling, back to the carefree days of my childhood, which, as with most 70’s children were spent outdoors from dawn ‘til dusk getting grubby making mud pies, playing marbles, tig, bulldog and building dens, and that is the smell of wild garlic and the call of the cuckoo. However, the cuckoo is not the most exciting bird I have heard this spring – oh no!

In general, I work from home but at least once a week I try to get over to the office at Langford Lowfields so that I can get out for a walk around the reedbed in my lunch break.  A couple of weeks ago I discovered that a bittern had been booming there for the first time in about six years so a group of us decided to stay late to listen out for this amazing sound – one which I have never heard before.  As if on cue – the bittern flew into the reed bed within a few minutes of our arrival and began booming – three or four loud booms every five minutes for about two hours non-stop – it was amazing!

For those of you that don’t know, the bittern is one of the heron family with brown streaked plumage and is a huge 80cm long, with a wingspan of up to 130cm.  Despite its size, it is very difficult to spot one as they are perfectly camouflaged in the reed bed where they nest and spend most of their time skulking around hunting fish and amphibians.   In spring, the male begins booming (much like the sound made by blowing across the top of an open glass bottle) and the sound, which can carry for miles, establishes his territory and, hopefully attracts a female.

Closer to home, whilst there are no booming bitterns, the air is certainly full of the constant sound of birdsong and the garden is almost full of  juvenile birds – fluffy house sparrows, shimmying, a robin with its, not-yet- red, speckled breast and so many brown starlings noisily begging for food from their attentive parents.  Unfortunately, our camera nest box remains empty – no Big Brother viewing for us this year.

I hope you are enjoying the wonder that is nature in springtime.


Please feel free to ask questions, send me your wildlife news or offer suggestions of what you would like me to include in future -113 Ermine Street or and thank you for all of the emails you have sent so far.