Avian Parallels

My passion for wild birds is such that I constantly listen to, or watch for them as they go about their daily lives. This passion for my avian freinds has followed me from South Africa to the UK, and it matters not that the birds are different, the need to see and hear them remains.
Back in Africa I knew the sounds and habits of every species that used my garden. The calls of every one, and the behaviour that was associated with the time of day, time of year, weather conditions, were embedded deeply in my psyche. Now, in the UK, the birds are new, the habitats are different, the weather has greater extremes, the gardens lack the size and diversity that is needed to attract many different species. There are far fewer species in the UK compared with my garden back in Durban, South Africa.
But in my little postage stamp of a garden in West Sussex, there are parallels to be drawn with some of the species in Africa.
Blackbirds have replaced the Olive Thrush that hopped around on the ground with head cocked, listening for insect prey under the ground. The Blackbird is a member of the Thrush family, and it behaves in all respects in the same way as the African Thrush.
Summers in Durban were punctuated by the arrival of two species of swallow, the Barn Swallow, migrants from Europe to Africa, and the Lesser-striped Swallow, an inter-African migrant. These species dominated our skies throughout the African summer. Now, in the UK, I still wait for the Barn Swallow, but I wait for it to return to the UK from Africa. There are no Lesser-striped Swallows to look forward to in the UK, but there are tiny House Martins, also migrants returning to the UK from Africa. Instead of Yellow-billed Kites overhead, searching for road-kills or prey in the fields, I have Buzzards, filling the same niche, and as appealing and exciting to watch, and Kestrels.
The raucous calls of the African Hadedah Ibis in the early spring and summer mornings, has been replaced by the raucous calls of gulls. And the parallel doesn’t end there. Gulls stride around on the open fields in the manner of Hadedahs too!
Yellow-eyed Canaries have been replaced by Greenfiches, Red-eyed Doves are replaced by massive, but equally dopey Wood Pigeon.
There was always great excitement in our African garden when the top raptor in the avian world, the Lanner Falcon, flashed across the sky on the hunt for prey. Now I see the iconic Peregrine Falcon, back from the brink of extinction and seemingly thriving in the UK. I am slowly learning the habits, calls and gizz of the birds of the UK. It is wonderful and exciting.

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