Birdwatch: white storks return to UK after 600-year absence

The sound was both primeval yet utterly fresh and new: a time-travelling throwback to the middle ages; yet, at the same time, a portent of a brighter future for our rural landscape.

Like a rapid burst of machine-gun fire, the bill-clapping of a white stork is – in nature’s terms – simply a signal that the bird is displaying to its mate. But for me, it also has a deep cultural resonance: as if the stork is celebrating its belated return to the British scene, after a gap of more than 600 years.

First one, then two, then a dozen of these striking black-and-white birds rose into the warm morning air on their broad wings. But this wasn’t in France, Spain or Poland, where I have watched them in the past, but in West Sussex: at the Knepp Wildland Project.

A pair of white storks, one of several breeding pairs in an area of Horsham.
A pair of white storks, one of several breeding pairs in an area of Horsham. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Some were youngsters: the first white storks to hatch in the wild in Britain since the early 15th century. Their parents had been brought here as part of an ambitious reintroduction project: just one element of the innovative wilding scheme achieved by Knepp’s owners, Charlie Burrell and Isabella Tree.

For me, above all, the storks’ presence signifies hope: that, after decades of marginalising wildlife in our farmed landscape, nature truly can be brought back, to delight us, and future generations.


READ  Snorkelling grandmothers uncover large population of venomous sea snakes in Noumea

Leave a Reply