Twitcher's World: The First One

This is my first entry into the Caswell Chat Magazine and I hope to give the novice bird watcher or Twitchers some idea as to what they can expect to see in and around Caswell Clinic.

The types of birds that can be expected will vary from the time of year and changes in the seasons and weather. They will range from the common or native birds to our summer visitors and perhaps a few visitors of the rarer kind – who knows.

The garden is situated as we know in the old existing grounds of Glanrhyd Hospital. The area is not far from the coast and has a river running along one of its boundaries.

It will not take long for the birds (and other small animals) to work out that the garden can provide a safe haven free from predators such as cats, dogs, foxes etc . . . and I would not be a bit surprised if some of the more "cheeky" birds e.g. robins, sparrows and blackbirds will become quite tame, and as work in the garden progresses they will follow people, as they do some digging, looking for some tasty worms or slugs to be turned up, and supply some free food. May, June and July are the busiest time of the year for all adult birds as they work relentlessly on feeding the nestlings they have reared in a non-stop to and fro from the nest site feeding an ever growing, constantly hungry brood.

The more common birds are the house sparrows which visit the garden daily. They can be seen chirping and chattering amongst themselves with the cock or male birds with his chest puffed out and his black-bib puffed up strutting around. The black bird with his yellow beak and the dark brown female bird will be seen every day visiting the garden; also the distinctive magpies with their black and white feathers and long tail.

The surrounding woods provide nest sites for these birds, and jackdaws and pigeons nest in the old tower behind cardigan ward. The large numbers of pigeons has brought the attention of a peregrine falcon which has again been seen "taking out" a pigeon in mid air with its aerial attack. This is a sign that these magnificent birds are making a come back after years of persecution by egg collectors, game keepers and pigeon fanciers who regularly poisoned them almost to extinction. Not many people will ever get to see a peregrine falcon in the wild and to see it make a kill is very rare indeed.

The early bird catches the worm or so the saying goes. However there has always been a debate on who the earliest bird is and who starts the dawn chorus. The summer mornings are often light by 5am band during a recent night shift I heard a blackbird singing well before 5 am. The robin is not far behind and the crows have been causing a commotion in the trees most mornings and evenings as they roost there in numbers - Probably safer for the young birds now that they have flown the nest but still pester their parents for food.

At this time of year it is not uncommon for some birds especially the smaller ones to have a second clutch of eggs and raise two broods in a season. By late July the visiting birds are well into rearing their young. The skies are full of swifts, swallows and house martins all taking advantage of the flies and bugs that are about. This is called taking their "food on the wing" and consists entirely of insects. The swift is the speed merchant of the skies and his screech can be heard on most days overhead. This is to alert the others of the next supply of flies. The swifts never lands only to roost at night in some roof or under some eaves as they have tiny feet and cannot take off from the ground with out help.

The swift will be the first to leave us to spend winter in Africa; this will be followed by the house martins and swallows who often raise two families. That´s all for now so keep your eyes open and contact Caswell Chat for any new birds that may pass by. Also there is a rumour that an ostrich was seen out of Cardigan Ward´s kitchen window – but this cannot be confirmed as the grass is too long to see it.