I was at Keyhaven Nature Reserve today with the Blashford Young Naturalists on a birdwatching trip. We saw over 70 species including a juvenile marsh harrier, a great white egret, 2 Dartford warbler, a peregrine, a ruff and 3 spoonbill, altogether a very good selection of birds. Not only did we see a lot of species but also a lot of birds, with many species in hundreds, with large flocks of golden plover, knot, dunlin, wigeon, teal, black-tailed godwit and lapwing.
I was a keen birdwatcher at the same age as our Young Naturalists and the day’s outing made me reflect upon the changes in our birdlife in that time. Several species we saw such as marsh harrier, spoonbill, Mediterranean gull and little egret would have been very rare highlights of any day and the idea of seeing a mega-rarity like great white egret quite fantastic. At their age I had seen a single marsh harrier but all the others were just images in the bird book.
Of course there were a few species that we would have seen then that we did not see today, birds like grey partridge and yellowhammer which were once common all over the place are now very local and largely lost from the Hampshire coast.
Things have probably always been changing more that we think, but there seems good evidence that the rate of change is accelerating. There could be several reasons for this, climate change, habitat change and the effects of active wildlife protection to suggest but a few. Possibly the rate of change is due to the interactions between these several factors all going on together. If any of our Young Naturalists keep their interest for a lifetime I wonder what they will be seeing (and not seeing) in another fifty years?
So true! I remember as a child (I am now 60) going up to Suffolk to see a Collared Dove which were pretty uncommon in Essex at that point. I remember going to mid Wales to find Red Kite in the 1980s and I remember the first time saw a Little Egret in Hampshire. My prediction for 50 years time is Zitting Cisticola, Cattle Egret and Penduline Tit as breeding birds in Hampshire
I remember failing to twitch little egret at Keyhaven back in the late 60’s. The day wasn’t that bad though as we stumbled across a grey phalarope swimming on a tiny pond. Great days but as you say, shame that some species have gone.
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