Late October at the Wetland Centre means whooper swans, which didn’t disappoint, especially as feeding time approached. They became my 654th species in twelve months, starting with Singapore last November. As well as the swans, thousands of pink-footed geese filled WWT Martin Mere’s pools and fields with their incessant chatter. The sight of yet more flying in to join them is one of the British autumn spectacles. I soaked it up in a couple of hours and various hides, towards the end of which came the real highlight for me.
A highlight more because I had forgotten it was likely and so hadn’t anticipated it. Right at the other end of the size spectrum, a small colony of tree sparrows persists on the reserve. A species I last noted in Singapore, where they are city birds, I’ve missed them ever since, even at the BirdFair, where they normally haunt the feeders.
Coincidentally the evening before my Wetland visit, BirdFair’s founder and Rutland Water good guy, Tim Appleton had spoken as part of the excellent programme put on by the WMBC Kidderminster branch. He had made the point that the feeders at Rutland operate year round. None of this mothballing in the spring and restarting in the autumn. The summer denial of service seems so mean to me, especially as breeding birds need their own nosh while they have the added pressure of bringing up baby. Thanks to this generosity, Rutland’s tree sparrows fledge three broods a year, compared with the national average of three or four chicks.
Back to Martin Mere and, being half-term, human chicks were evident. Many a grizzled birder, probably me too, would complain about the resultant noise and whatnot but really it’s the kids who tomorrow will be deciding the fate of everything from tree sparrows to whooper swans. And feeding will be only a small part of that.