Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Dawn Chorus

Spectacular British Spring
For me the British Spring is one of the most spectacular anywhere in the world and this year is probably the best I can remember in a very long time. Likely due to the release of pent-up energy after what was our hardest winter in over 30 years, plus the warmest April on record the cherry; apple and hawthorn blossom has been simply stunning. Looking back over some of my previous years birding notes it's quite clear too that this is one the best years for visiting warblers for a considerable time.

Once again I've spent what has been a very blustery weekend locally, plus an early morning visit to Brandon Marsh on Sunday. Brandon threw up a slight surprise when I discovered the brownest Barn Owl I think I've ever seen peering out of one the nest boxes, a box that I know usually contains Stock Dove. I have heard of several stories of these two species sharing boxes and this seems to prove that this does occasionally take place, especially as a lone Stock Dove was perched forlornly above!

On the home front good numbers of Swift have been passing through and a Red Kite has been seen several times over the marina. Two Lesser Whitethroat have been singing non-stop from the hawthorn but no further sightings of Whimbrel or Wheatear since Friday’s visits.

Today I'd organised a Dawn Chorus Walk at Brandon Marsh for a number of the conservation team and couldn't have asked for a more beautiful morning. Mind you it came as a slight surprise to be scrapping quite a hard frost from the car windscreen at 5am! We met in the lower car park just prior to sunrise, finishing off at around 9am with breakfast in the nature centre. Despite the onset into May there's still lots of birds who've yet to pair off and the birdsong today was just amazing.

As I entered the top gates of the reserve a Lesser Whitethroat was singing, one of our late arriving warblers and another species which seems to be in good numbers this year. As we set off from the lower car park a Cuckoo was calling from Horsetail Glade, a great start for the team. By the time we'd reached Wright Hide and our first look at East Marsh Pool we'd recorded the full range of warblers, with the exception of Grasshopper, which despite having so many reeling over the previous weeks remained elusive, until eventually a couple were heard at Carlton hide.

Yellow Wagtail
Two Ruffs were still present, along with Common Sandpiper and the usual variety of Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Redshank, Snipe and Oystercatcher. The wildfowl still contained good numbers of Teal, Tufted Duck and two ♂ Shoveler, and for a short time it seemed that we might be treated to displaying Great Crested Grebe’s, but they never quite got there. A bonus was a single ♂ Yellow Wagtail that was eventually seen on Willow Island after painstakingly extracting the location from our very own eccentric Derek Bennett!

A few of the guys headed off for a walk around the ‘Tip’ area and Farm Field after breakfast and this produced the first signs of Spotted Orchid, plus Buzzard, Bullfinch, Green Woodpecker and my first Small Copper and Holly Blue Butterflies of the year. Other notables of the day included: Common Tern, Kingfisher, Treecreeper, Goldcrest, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Swift and the usual Swallow and Martin's..