Big thank you from

The south flying knot prepares to return home

by Paul Cormacain

I AM delighted to say that the Environment and Heritage Service, in Conjunction With the RSPB, have launched the School Resources Pack for Education. This should help to make our youth more conscious of our surrounding, and the necessity for not making a mess of our back door step, so to speak. Copies of this bright and knowledgeable pack are now being sent to every school in NI.

If the children learn something, some of this is bound to be passed on to the older members of society, and this can only do good.


This week I saw one of our more subdued birds attacking one of our more aggressive birds. I saw a side to the collared dove 1 had never seen before, a bird associated with early morning billing and cooing. I had always thought that the most aggressive part of this bird was its call. At 31 cms, it is a smaller bird than the magpie, 46 cms, but it is certainly not afraid of it.

Then I thought, hey, this meek collared dove has been expanding throughout the world, and you can not be too meek to do that. The dove comes from southern Asia. About 70 years ago it broke out of its own district, and decided to conquer the world. It moved west through Asia Minor, and through Europe from south-east to north-west. It is now 50 years that the collared dove reached Britain, arriving in Ireland in 1960.

From Wales in 1676, the magpie decided to also spread west, so came to Ireland. So these two birds are comparative newcomers, and always it is the magpie that gets the reputation of being aggressive. It can, and does, take advantage of vulnerable young birds and eggs.

Was this perhaps the cause of the row? Did a magpie come across an unattended nest, or an unattended young bird, and decide to lunch on same? I can think of no other reason that the quiet dove would attack the aggressive crow, than if she lost a youngster or near-hatched egg.

The dove attacked the crow and the crow retreated. She flew up, and tied to come down on the magpie's back, and again the crow moved in time. Then the collared dove would run across the ground, and again the magpie would keep out of her range.

This went on for some time, and never once did the larger bird retaliate. Could it be that if you are in that position, and have a guilty conscience, you expect to be harried by a smaller bird, and do not retaliate?

Have you hard the chiffchaff yet this year? Or have you heard the similar-looking willow warbler, both welcome visitors to our shores in the summer?

I have not seen any terns vet this year, but I heard some reports that terns have arrived at Strangford Lough. Must visit them.


Out with my daughter last Friday, we had to do some chores but kept getting re-directed, and ended up on the Falls Road near City Cemetery. I am not allowed to talk about my anger with the bombers, but I can tell you that the bright light in the sky that day was caused by seeing a house martin, my first of the year.

If house martins come, can swifts and swallows and sand martins be far behind, or indeed far in front? This is the time for house martin arrivals, from its African wintering grounds, and they form a delightful sight whizzing among the houses. The house where I was brought up always had a martin's nest above the bathroom window, and I wish we had martins here.

Ulster Star