With the countryside still gripped in winter, thoughts now at this time of year are of returning summer migrants from their African wintering grounds.
Within 4 weeks from now, the first summer migrants will be making their presence known, usually it will be the odd Chiffchaff singing its repetitive song from a small patch of woodland where it intends to breed, or in a hedgerow or garden as a bird of passage.
The mystery of migration is something which I find fascinating, it is the timing, the routes taken, the hazzards presented to each species, including unfortunately man-made barriers and hazzards in the form of trapping and shooting, something I find disgusting and unnecessary, and of course, the vast distances covered.
I photographed this Lesser Whitethroat in August 2012 at Houghton-on-the-Hill, Norfolk. Since this shot was taken, this beautiful Sylvia Warbler would have migrated South-East through Europe, either crossing the Mediterranean Sea from Turkey to Cyprus and into North-East Africa, or continuing along the eastern Mediterranean shores, again into North-East Africa, where it would have wintered. At the time of writing, this bird (if it survived) will be making the return journey North-West through Europe, arriving with us in mid to late April to breed. The precise nature of the journey undertaken by Lesser Whitethroats means that the species is absent, or very rare in south-west Europe.
I remember, whilst having a holiday along the River Nile in Egypt in March 2005, watching Lesser Whitethroats making their way along through sparse shrubs along the bank of the river, evidence of migration actually happening right in front of me - who knows, perhaps those birds were destined to breed in a green, leafy lane somewhere in Norfolk. The miracle of migration.