Big thank you from

Listening to birds with a song in their heart

By Paul Cormacain

IT was good to re-visit the south shore of Lough Neagh, although Foot and Mouth restrictions meant we could not approach the shore through fields.

There were access points, but in any case we were never far from water and could observe the wildlife.

Many mute swans cruised slowly by, ducking their long necks into the water in the search for food.

These particular birds had all the time in the world, which led me to believe that they were non-breeding birds, perhaps birds who were only born last year and had not matured yet.

The breeding swans would mostly expect to have young by now, and young means continuous feeding, and young mouths never closed.

Endless trips. by both parents to obtain food for the young would mean that an adult would not have the time to appear to have all the time in the world.

Endless supplies of water vegetation would be needed, not to mention the occasional insect, small fish or frog.

A male thrush called. Birds usually have two reasons for singing, the first is for a male to attract a female, and the second is to, let other birds know that the territory belongs to the singer.

We have a song thrush singing in our garden for the last month or more. I was convinced that he was singing for a lady friend. But what if he was singing for the sheer pleasure of it?

The song thrush can be heard singing in nearly any month. They only breed in the spring and early summer, and do not hold territory all year round.

So they only require a mate, and territory, in the spring, yet they sing most of the year. So that brings me back to the last question I asked.

Perhaps it was the sunshine, but wrens were in splendid voice, and there seemed to be plenty of them singing at intervals along the side of the Lough.

Wrens who have partners, husbands or wives, will likely have their first family half reared by now, and could well have started on a second one.

The tiny male wren may build a couple of nests, drag his missus around to view, then let her decide which house to use.

When the first family takes to the air the male may well take the young to sleep at nights in one of the reject nests and the female can then start another family in the favoured nest.

Such small birds, such busy birds, and as if they are not busy enough, or have not enough to do, each family may have five or six young.

Many ducks swam on the calm waters of Lough Neagh. It was easy to identify the mallard and the tufted duck, but other ducks swam further off-shore, and it was just not possible to be certain about them.

Some of the lady ducks had families, so they were busy feeding the young, teaching the young, and keeping them safe.

Hooded crows were in good supply. This is the time of year when they can be very vocal about food, partners, young, nests, territory, so they kept up a constant chatter.

Well, they were arguing, more like, and by the sound of them they always had something to argue about.

Magpies were, if anything, worse than the hoodies. Again, they are concerned about their husbands, wives, children. If they came across a nest with eggs, well the eggs could just disappear.

If there were young in the nest, the young could disappear as well. All to feed the magpie young.

Young birds who had already left the magpie nest always seem to be looking for food. Come to think of it, all young from humans to birds to insects are always on the lookout for food from their parents.

Wildlife was looking and sounding good. Wildlife was busy, what with large numbers of young about who required an endless supply of food, and who needed looking after. It was a good day to be out and about.

Ulster Star