|Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe), St Mary's Bay, 18/4/14|
After a relatively quiet few weeks where bird-related anticipation has well out-flanked reality, the last few days it has finally felt like the cogs of spring migration are grinding into action.
This morning I headed out to St Mary's Bay to do the usual loop of one of my favourite birding locations. Parking at Northward Hill around 7.30am there was little activity around the farm or viewpoint save a few newly arrived common whitethroats, singing their scratchy song from bramble fortresses. Out by the orchard and along to the heronry, it was hard to pick out much above the din of the rooks and gurgling little egrets although both lesser whitethroat and nightingale gave it their all. Down the lane to Swigshole a couple of swallows flew through, otherwise the only other chatter came from the workers in the fields - migrants of an economic kind. Reaching the cottage and the track out north, I decided to do the loop anti-clockwise so as to have the sun and the surprisingly cool breeze behind me when I reached the sea wall. Before I reached the bay, I was pleased to find a nice flock of seven wheatears together in the corner of St Mary's marsh. Mediterranean gulls were also plentiful here, their calls swirling overhead, somewhere in the wide expanse of blue sky above me.
Heading out to the bay, I couldn't find any yellow wagtails with the cattle but I was surprised to find another birder out on the bay - but then I'm always surprised to see anyone else here! Unfortunately the chap had decided the best way to get a better view of the river was to climb over a fence and walk across the salt marsh - all for the sake of being about 20 metres closer - nevermind fieldcraft and the meadow pipits scattering from his path. Anyway...a distant flock of Brent geese were a nice reminder of migration's revolving door - and those winter birds heading for the exit. A single Whimbrel pottered on the large expanse of mud in the bay, along with a single Avocet and smaller crowds of redshank and oystercatcher. Heading round towards Egpyt Bay were two more obliging wheatear and a Yellow Wagtail which flew over and landed briefly on the beach.
I took my time on the track back to Swigshole, admiring a pair of Marsh harriers and trying to coax something nice out of the bushes, a gropper maybe...but a couple of Cetti's was as much as I got. I did however spot perhaps the most unexpected bird of the day though - a single Fieldfare close in on one of the rspb fields! It is undoubtedly my latest record for the species...
Around this point I was starting to zone out a bit and muse on the fact that things still seemed pretty quiet when several blackbirds flushed off the path ahead of me. Their alarms stirred me slightly and I became aware of a much more nasal sounding call with them. Scanning the memory bank, I followed their flight and was chuffed to see a Ring Ouzel flying across one of the paddocks by the cottage. The bird perched on low bush first before dropping to the ground and foraging along the fence line, some 50m away, for a couple of minutes - showing off it's superb white crescent breast band. It's always great to see these birds and to find one here felt good. Incredibly, just a moment after the ouzel disappeared from view, I spotted a large, greyish bird moving along the adjacent hedgerow towards me, slightly obscured. My instinct was that it must be a female sparrowhawk cruising for some brunch but when I moved to get a better view I was stunned to see a ring-tail Hen Harrier fly right over me! Incredible! The bird quickly disappeared over some scrub and then presumably headed off over towards the Decoy fields.
|Ring Ouzel (Turdus torquatus) nr Egypt Bay, 18/4/14|
After that unexpected burst of action, I was buzzing again and enjoyed a walk through the bluebells at Northward Hill before heading home. I hope it's not too cheesy to say today was a very Good Friday!
Sightings of note today:
Garganey (drake on res), 14 Avocet (Swigshole fields), 1 Buzzard, Cuckoo (1 heard), 5 Swallow, 1 House Martin, 2+ Whitethroat, 3 Lesser Whitethroat, 6+ Nightingale, Willow Warbler (singing), 5 Jay, 3 Stock Dove
St Mary's bay/Egypt Bay:
Ring Ouzel (1m by Swigshole Cottage), 29 Brent Goose, 6 Tufted Duck, 1 Whimbrel, 1 Avocet, 3 Marsh Harrier, 1 Hen Harrier (rt), 20+ Mediterranean Gull, 9 Wheatear, 1-2 Yellow Wagtail, 1 Sedge Warbler, 2 Cetti's Warbler
|Spring is 'ear!|