I Bless the Rains Down in Africa
It doesn’t know it yet, but that minuscule ball of down that just popped out of its shell into the world, running around wildly but never too far from the comfort of its parents, will start a grandiose 4000km-long journey crossing desert and sea in less than three months’ time.
Enduring the hardship of such migration and its viscerally frightening and too often deadly traps –hunger, predators, hunters– is not something one would wish upon one’s worst enemy. So the Collared Pratincole’s great journey across a continent and civilisations is an endeavour few of us will have the chance to undertake in our lifetime. Leaving the coastal wetlands of the Mediterranean basin on the wing, she glides above the pyramids to spend the winter in the heart of Africa, somewhere between the coast of Guinea and Ethiopia.
Each sighting of this delicate bird is a pleasure. In the words of Jean Jalbert, a conservationist from the Camargue wetland complex in southern France: “It’s a magnificent bird, a little bigger than a swallow. As it is building its nest on bare ground, its eggs are often submerged when the rice farmers flood the rice fields. Watching them feed above the marshes at sunset is a wondrous sight.”
Sadly though, our partner Tour du Valat, guardians of the Camargue, reminds us that “while the Collared Pratincole is not currently considered as globally-threatened by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature, the global authority on the conservation status of wild species), its precarious situation in France makes it a threatened species there.”
Coastal wetlands are home to a fabulous diversity of species. But between land-grabbing and Climate Change, we’re losing them at an alarming rate.