Skylarks show spring’s coming
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 email@example.com