As a reminder, following the latest clear instructions from the Government for us all to remain at home apart from a limited number of allowed activities, all of our reserves, including Lake Vyrnwy are closed to visitors until further notice. Our efforts will now move to helping the millions of people spending time at home. We are determined to do our bit to try and help connect people with the amazing wildlife to be seen in gardens or from balconies or windows, and offer some hope and joy in these difficult times.

We may not be able to move around at the moment, but for birds and other wildlife this is a key time of year for them as they look to return to their breeding areas. The first ones have already arrived and are enjoying the sunny weather that we have all been waiting for. Chiffchaffs are noticeable in wooded and shrubby areas as they shout their name on repeat ‘chiff-chaff, chiff-chaff’. If you’re fortunate to live in the countryside open a window or stand in your garden and listen out for them.

Swallow

From the end of March it is worth keeping your eyes on the skies as the first swallows should start arriving, some from as far south as South Africa 6000 miles away. They will have run (or perhaps flown) the gauntlet as they fly across the Sahara Desert risking their lives to get back to the UK and mainland Europe to raise a family, to then take their youngster all the way back.

Left to right: male pied flycatcher, male redstart, and wood warbler

Some of our most iconic summer migrants return to Lake Vyrnwy’s mature oak woodlands each year. These include the pied flycatcher, redstart and wood warbler, all of which again come from Africa, though not as far south. They winter in sub-Saharan western Africa so are still required to cross the Sahara Desert. They should be back in the woodlands around mid-April, start to sit on eggs around mid-May with chicks fledging 2 weeks after hatching.

Cuckoo

The cuckoo call is perhaps one of the most loved sounds of spring and summer. We are fortunate to have a good number of birds returning here each summer where they will predominantly parasitize meadow pipit nests, removing a pipit egg and replacing with one of its own. Unknowingly the adult meadow pipits will then feed the cuckoo chick on its own after it pushes the other pipit eggs out of the nest. Over the last few years, cuckoo migration has been studied very closely with satellite tags being used to track their routes. Why not check out the latest info on the BTO website and track some of the UK returning birds.

During these times of restricted movements, take this opportunity to take a closer look in your garden for those mini beasties, flying insects and the flowering plants. Or just sit back, close your eyes and listen to nature as it tunes up for the summer.

Gavin Chambers, Warden

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