Sky­larks show spring’s com­ing

Middlesbrough Herald & Post - - HERALD & POST -

A FLOCK of sky­larks feed­ing in the fields bor­der­ing the Coast Road be­tween Red­car and Marske was a timely re­minder that spring is not as far away as we might think.

Cer­tainly there are some birds, es­pe­cially among the big­ger va­ri­eties, which are al­ready think­ing about ro­mance and nest build­ing.

But the sky­larks will wait an­other cou­ple of months be­fore the flocks be­gin to split up and the birds es­tab­lish in­di­vid­ual ter­ri­to­ries.

We’re all fa­mil­iar with the skylark, pic­tured, which usu­ally makes it­self con­spic­u­ous with its de­light­ful char­ac­ter­is­tic song which ra­di­ates through the air while the bird grad­u­ally climbs higher and higher above its se­lected area.

This is al­ways one of the most heart-warm­ing bird­songs dur­ing spring and sum­mer.

This skylark’s song was never more en­joyed than by the Bri­tish sol­diers in the trenches dur­ing World War One. It helped them to main­tain their san­ity in be­tween the con­stant shelling.

The Vic­to­ri­ans used to keep sky­larks as caged song­birds; that is to say, the ones which they didn’t shoot. Sky­larks were once con­sid­ered a del­i­cacy and lark shoot­ing was a pop­u­lar pas­time.

Sky­larks are prop­erly pro­tected these days and bird­ing bod­ies are work­ing with farm­ers to try to im­prove their gen­eral en­vi­ron­ment to halt a de­cline in num­bers.

The birds breed both in up­land stretches and in coastal re­gions and it is the lat­ter where we usu­ally spot them.

They stick close to their wives and kids dur­ing the sum­mer, be­fore link­ing up again and form­ing large flocks which can num­ber many hun­dreds. This fine pic­ture of a skylark was taken by Dave Pearce.

Skylark flocks are bol­stered by win­ter vis­i­tors from North­ern Europe. So many of the Red­car birds may even­tu­ally be fly­ing back across the North Sea be­fore starting their fam­i­lies.

An­other bird which I’ve been pleased to see on a cou­ple of oc­ca­sions on Teesside lately is the song thrush.

We are en­ter­tain­ing a large num­ber of over-win­ter­ing Scan­di­na­vian thrushes at the mo­ment, such as red­wings and field­fares, and the song thrush can eas­ily be over­looked at this time of year.

Like the skylark, the song thrush has an en­chant­ing song, which is of­ten heard at dawn and dusk when other birds are en­joy­ing a snooze.

Song thrushes have also suf­fered a mas­sive drop in num­bers but in­cen­tives for hedgerow man­age­ment and mar­gins around farm­ers’ fields may help with a much hoped-for re­cov­ery.

Eric would like to hear from read­ers about what they have seen. Email him at eric.pay­lor@gmail.com

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