WITH DON KNOWLER

Mercury (Hobart) - Magazine - - Grow Your Own -

In fast-paced, trou­bled times, I in­creas­ingly look for cer­tain­ties such as the rit­u­als and rhythms of life that tell you all is well with the world. My cer­tain­ties are gen­er­ally geared to the sea­sons and there is noth­ing as cer­tain or re­as­sur­ing as the ar­rival of the wel­come swal­lows (pic­tured) on my patch in spring.

Over 17 years, I have al­ways timed them for the first week­end of Septem­ber. The sight of their er­ratic, joy­ous flight brings with it the vi­sion of sum­mer, even when snow lingers on the summit of ku­nanyi/Mt Welling­ton.

I had high hopes of a bumper swal­low spring when one of my cor­re­spon­dents, David Kernke, owner of Shene his­toric es­tate at Pontville, said swal­lows had ar­rived there in mid-Au­gust. I counted down the days, ex­pect­ing at any time to see them fur­ther south at the Water­works Re­serve, but the swal­lows were still not in my neigh­bour­hood past their nor­mal ar­rival date.

Mi­gra­tory birds of many species usu­ally ar­rive on warm northerly winds, and this year I noted the nor­mal swal­low ar­rival time co­in­cided with a cold snap with snow-laden west­erly and south-west­erly winds. In the past, I might have at­trib­uted the late ar­rival to un­favourable weather. But in un­cer­tain times of de­clin­ing bird pop­u­la­tions, the ar­rival of spring has been marked by a grow­ing anx­i­ety about how Tas­ma­nian birds are far­ing in win­ter on the main­land.

Num­bers of the mi­gra­tory birds are show­ing marked de­clines across the world. Among them are the world’s swal­low species. Fewer barn swal­lows, which breed in the US and Canada, are ar­riv­ing from their win­ter­ing grounds in South Amer­ica, and there is also a marked fall in the num­ber of Euro­pean swal­lows that have trans-con­ti­nen­tal flights that link north­ern Europe with the far tip of the African con­ti­nent. The Euro­pean swal­lows’ cousins, the house martin and the sand martin, are also fail­ing to ar­rive in the num­bers of old.

Or­nithol­o­gists are still seek­ing rea­sons for the de­cline, but two fac­tors are thought to be in play re­gard­ing the Euro­pean species: land clear­ance and in­creas­ing global tem­per­a­tures. Though I haven’t seen ev­i­dence of dra­matic de­clines in Aus­tralian swal­low and martin species, our swal­lows and other mi­gra­tory birds can­not be di­vorced from the fac­tors af­fect­ing them else­where.

On a more pos­i­tive note, my anx­ious wait for the swal­lows ended in the first week of Septem­ber. A merry twit­ter across the twin lakes of the Water­works Re­serves put my mind at rest – at least un­til next year.

And on an­other note, my book on ku­nanyi/Mt Welling­ton, The Shy Moun­tain, is be­ing launched by Charles Woo­ley at the Ho­bart Book­shop on Wed­nes­day at 5.30pm. All are wel­come and I hope to see you there.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.