Rural Reading: Floods bring a trickle of unusual birdsBy Adrian Lawson
May 04, 2012
Two sets of floodgates opened this week.
It won’t have gone unnoticed that rain has fallen every day since the hosepipe ban was put in place, and I am sure many people will have seen the vast swathes of flooded countryside and the swollen rivers.
One of my favourite dense, and almost impenetrable, woodlands has a few marsh marigolds growing in little sunny clearings.
These may be the last wild ones growing in Reading, and I noticed their leaves unfurling a few weeks ago in cracked, almost parched, soil.
On Monday their flowers were out, but under a foot of fast-flowing water.
Where the whitethroats arrived last week to build their nest in the tangled nettles and brambles, they are now looking at a shallow lake, and they will have to wait until the water drops or find somewhere else to nest.
But the weather did open another floodgate of sorts.
Many birds migrate over Reading and rarely stop, but suddenly there is a reason to.
The flooded fields along the Kennet have a lot of food available.
Birds that are rarely seen can now be found, even if they are still hard to see.
Birds with long legs and long bills – such as whimbrel, black and bar-tailed godwits, greenshank and gunlin – adapted to the marshy conditions.
These are birds that breed in the tundra in the summer and winter far to the south.
We are only ever granted fleeting views, and if there is nowhere for them to feed we might never see them at all.
Finding them can be a challenge. They inhabit vast swathes of wet pasture, which is inaccessible, the grass has already grown a fair bit, and they are well camouflaged.
Describing this influx as a flood is actually a bit misleading.
In a whole week I have found maybe a dozen birds.
A trickle then, but a fascinating one.