A Mini Roost

Dusk was falling over the reed bed at Cranwich, the sky a washed out pale blue, the hazy clouds highlighted by brilliant gold lending definition to the swirling edges. As the evening progressed the sky turned dusky pink. Once again the site is flooded, the dark water rising over the banks and creating rivers along the paths that shimmer in the evening light.

The sun setting over Cranwich

As dusk settled around two nets cutting through the reeds a boom box played the calls of swallows. At this time of year this summer migrant starts to flock together, roosting in reed beds  getting ready for their long journey south. It is the perfect time to catch them in large numbers.

With the nets set and the sound of swallows floating out across the reeds we retreated to wait. Around us the reed bed settled into the night shift, small birds darted between the trees looking for a safe place to slumber, jackdaws called noisily, a hobby zipped past, a mere shadow in the evening light. The bugs came out to play, buzzing around our heads, tickling arms, ears and noses. While some birds were heading for bed, others were waking up… the kewik of a male tawny owl answered by the hoouh….ho, ho ho hoooouh of the female. Silently the silhouette of an owl swoops overhead, black on dark blue…

With just enough light left to see we returned to the net, and there seemingly waiting patiently were four birds, one juvenile reed warbler and three swallows. Not a large roost catch, but a catch non the less.

A young swallow by torch light

By the light of torches, surrounded by the blackness and stillness of the night we took a look at our catch, and we were pleased to see two young swallows along with a glorious adult female. It has been a such a poor breeding season for so many birds, with swallows one of the hardest hit as the rain deluged the country and the insect population faltered. With these two young birds comes the knowledge that at least some have managed to fledge, the prayer that they will make it back next year and the hope that next summer will be drier….


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