Thoughts from Blagdon Lake

Blagdon Lake, Somerset
Blagdon Lake, Somerset

Y’know, the summer doldrums, they don’t really exist. Yesterday after work should have been little cause for expectation. But from the fishing lodge, hundreds, if not several thousand, swifts filled the air. House martins joined them in a veritable display of aerial prowess.

I’ve had various favourite birds over the years, including grey wagtail, kestrel and blackbird. More and more though, swifts just awe me. I could watch them for ages. The marvel is that I stand among them and never get hit. More marvellous yet, they never hit anything else, or themselves.

This year swifts seem to have been abundant, after recent dire warnings. Best not to read too much into local versus global phenomena all the same.

Further round the lake, a garden warbler provided my first North Somerset sighting, as opposed to heard only. As a species this is of “least concern”, which might imply it’s doing better than swifts. Look more closely and the reason is that they’re declining but not fast enough.

This is criminal. Imagine the uproar if humans went into any sort of decline. You don’t have to imagine it. Just a few hundred deaths are sufficient to set off a panic. These can be from the most trivial of causes: some obscure virus; a genetic defect; a lifestyle disease.

The selfish ape. That’s how we’ll be seen if anything remains to look back on these times. Actually Blagdon Lake is rather testament to that. We drowned an entire valley without a thought. The irony is that waterbirds have thrived there since. Not such good news for the woodland birds whose home it was since the last Ice Age. But then, they’ve been in trouble since human beings first set foot on these shores.

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