This morning I went along to a Book Festival talk given by Horatio Clare and Michael McCarthy on migrating birds. Michael McCarthy read from his book Say Goodbye to the Cuckoowhich looks at the declining numbers of this species in the UK, and Horatio Clare talked about his book A Single Swallow, which recounts the story of his attempt to follow the swallows as they migrate from their wintering grounds in South Africa to the UK. There was then a wide-ranging discussion. The place that migratory birds hold in our culture as heralds of Spring was contrasted with the role that swallows have in South Africa as bringers of rain. As migratory birds start to decline dramatically as they are across the UK (though less so in Scotland it seems) we risk losing vital connections that we have to the changing seasons. There was also discussion contrasting the freedom that migratory birds have to travel, compared to the artificial borders that restrict human travel, though it was also pointed out that migratory birds face huge risks of being shot as they pass over the Mediterranean. It was a fascinating and sobering event.