06 April 2008

Willington, in the snow...

I woke this morning (at 5:45AM) to find the garden covered in snow, and a male Blackbird outside the kitchen window complaining that he was cold and that there was no fruit on the bird table for breakfast. The Blackbird and three of his mates were served breakfast before I was - it was quieter that way! At times, I think the birds eat better than I do here, and they cost more to feed too.

After my own, rushed, breakfast I loaded by binoculars, ‘scope, two coats and my Wellingtons into the car and set off for my second home, Willington Gravel Pits. Since 9th March I’ve put in more than 20hrs of birding at Willington and it’s starting to pay off. Today’s visit gave me four more new ticks for my “10-Mile List”... Blackcap, Yellow Wagtail (my earliest Derbyshire record by 3 days), Willow Warbler and Swallow.

Sunrise at Willington.

Birding in the snow isn’t something I do too often, and it’s certainly the first time I’ve visited Willington when it’s been white over, but this morning’s visit was one of those memorable times that stay with you for a long while. Waiting for the sun to rise, listening to the birds singing, whilst stood ankle deep in snow was a rather pleasant way to start a day! Quite what the recently arrived summer migrants thought I can only guess at, but it was cold, very cold!

As well as the four new birds, other notable sightings included... 6 Shelduck, 20 Gadwall, 4 Goosander, Sparrowhawk, 4 Buzzard, Peregrine, 3 Oystercatcher, 7 Redshank, 3 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 10 Chiffchaff, 20 Linnet and 4 Bullfinch.

The sight of over 300 Sand Martin descending upon the canal scrape proved quite a spectacle but also had me wondering just how many of them would survive the coming days and weeks. Many of the birds looked to be trying to rest-up, and also warm up, in the early morning sun by landing on an area of mud that had been exposed as the snow melted. Once on the ground the birds formed into a close knit group and remained almost motionless for long periods of time.

By 10:00AM the sun was starting to burn off the early morning chill and the martins seemed to be coping better with the conditions as they could be seen flying around over much of the reserve. No doubt they’d be even happier if the temperature was to rise by another few degrees and a few insects started to appear for them to eat.

This Chaffinch may have been cold but it was singing it's head off!

Reflections in the canal.

The species count for my “10-Mile List” now stands at 89.


  1. Hi, checked out your site today following the link you left on my blog. Your site is fantastic and your pics are beautiful. I've got a lot to live up to!

  2. Hello!

    Thanks for dropping in on my page... hope you found something of interest! LOL!

    One or two of the photos are okay but you should see the amount that get sent to the recycle bin!

    Hey... 10 Chiffchaff today! :-)

  3. Now I am jealous. So many birds. My favorite romping grounds doesn't open until 9a.m. and if I go to some of the other places alone...it could be dangerous for me. Surely there must be other bird watcher in the area who wouldn't mind some company. I didn't mean that how it sounded. LOL.

    Sarah XX