20 February 2009

Spring's here!

On Wednesday morning I began to think that spring was close at hand when a rather annoying Blackbird decided to start the dawn chorus at 2:45am - he woke both Lynda and myself with his constant singing! Today, I've decided that spring IS here! My neighbours may not appreciate my decision but then again they never do. More on that later.

As it was Lynda's birthday yesterday we have both had the past two days off work. Yesterday was spent relaxing at home, having a light lunch and huge coffees at Starbucks and then loading dozens of music tracks onto Lynda's new MP3 player. In the evening we went to the Waterfront Pub & Restaurant at Barton Marina for a meal and a few drinks. The meal was great but maybe, just maybe, we didn't need to have had a piece of cheesy garlic bread each - neither Lynda or myself had room for pudding after our main courses. Most unusual!

So, back to the arrival of spring. This morning I had a few hours birding at Willington Gravel Pits and added another 5 new species to my "10-Mile List". The walk down the lane was still a little quiet but the birds that were there were singing well and that made up for the lack of numbers. Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Song Thrush and Chaffinch were all in fine voice as were a few Greenfinches. The first new bird for my year list was a single male Yellowhammer that I almost managed to walk right past without noticing. Luckily, the bird started to sing just as I was passing it and species number 86 was on my "10-Mile List".

Out on the main pit the number of ducks has now started to fall but there was still plenty to see. Notable counts included 5 Shelduck, 25 Wigeon, 4 Gadwall, 4 Shoveler and 12 Pochard. The Goosander numbered just 4 birds when I first arrived at the reserve but by mid-day had reached a total of 24 birds, my highest ever count of this species here. Many of the male birds are now in full breeding plumage, complete with that delicate pink flush, and looked absolutely stunning in the bright sunshine. The second new bird of the year again gave itself away to me by calling - an Oystercatcher. With this species there is not much chance of missing a bird if it's around, do they ever shut up?

The view from P3.

Having reached the end of the lane I pitched camp on the viewing platform and waited to see what would appear, whilst enjoying the warmth of the sun on my back. Pity about the cold wind hitting my face, but you can't have everything. A flock of around 700 Lapwing was often seen flying over the reserve and the gravel works and, on closer inspection, carried two Golden Plover with them. A pair of Buzzard soared high over the Toyota works and 4 Stock Dove were also seen in flight.

At 10:45am a group of 15 Curlew flew low over the reserve but didn't land and immediately after that a single Skylark took to the air and started to sing. Species number 88 and 89 for the "10-Mile List" were duly noted! This was turning into a rather productive morning.

The final new bird for the day, and the year, wasn't fully confirmed until around 6 hours after I'd seen it - I'm quite happy to admit that I needed to check its ID on the internet! I'm also happy to admit that I don't have much of an interest in gulls so I wasn't familiar with the plumage of the bird I was looking at. Now all you local birders, don't go getting all excited, I've not suppressed a "mega" it was only a Caspian Gull. The honour of being species number 90 on my "10-Mile List" goes to a gull, I'm just thankful that it wasn't number 100!

Caspian Gull.

Once back at home it was time to set about the garden - I've mown both the lawns, cut back a number of shrubs and a rose and dug all the borders over. I'm not saying we have a picture perfect little show garden yet but it does at least look presentable again. By the time I'd finished at least two of our neighbours had started up their mowers too. They must hate it when I decide spring is here and they have to follow in my footsteps! Ha, I get' em every year!

So, on a day when I've seen Oystercatcher, Curlew and Skylark back at Willington and I've also cut the grass for the first time this year I've decided SPRING IS HERE! And most welcome it is too!


  1. You are ahead of the game - I never mow my lawns until Good Friday!

    I'd have been a bit more excited about that Caspian too! Great spot.

  2. Ah, the problem with Good Friday is that they keep moving it! I often have to work that day too!

    As for the gull... never have been a fan, never will be. That said, I am thinking of going after Iceland Gull tomorrow evening.

  3. Nic (birdnerdblog)22 February, 2009 17:18

    Hiya! Happy belated birthday, Lynda!
    I reckon Spring is most definitely here! It's been very mild here lately, and it actually wasn't pitch black at 5:30pm when I left work on Saturday!
    Robin, Blackbird, Song Thrush and Dunnock all in song round our back garden, and we now have a male and two female Greenfinches, a bird which in the past has been an infrequent visitor, so it's nice to see them.
    Congrats on the Caspian Gull by the way, and good luck with the Iceland!