31 March 2009

The joys of spring...

I’d planned on having two days of birding over the weekend... make the most of being off work, get out and about early both days, track down one or two species that have so far given me the slip (I still need that Jay!) and also catch up with any fresh migrants that had appeared. That was the plan; the reality was no birding at all on Saturday and just a little over 5 hours on Sunday.

Saturday’s plans were, quite literally, blown away by the weather - I just couldn’t face yet another day of being buffeted around by the wind having cycled to and from work in it all week. Then, if the wind wasn’t bad enough, we were subjected to heavy rain, sleet and even hail showers during the afternoon. I was more than happy to stay home in the warm! Sunday, as forecast, was a much better day; the clouds had blown away overnight, the wind had disappeared and the sun was out all day. I was up and about before the sun was up properly even though we’d lost an hour in bed due to the change to British Summer Time.

The sun comes up...

I arrived at Barrow-on-Trent just as the sun came up and spent a very pleasant couple of hours just ambling around the lanes, fields and lake there. Bird wise there wasn’t too much to get over excited about but it turned into one of those mornings where the only things that really mattered were being close to nature, being able to relax and to forget about everything else going on in the world. As the sun climbed higher in the sky so the bird song increased... Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird and Song Thrush all competed for my attention. In the distance a Great Spotted Woodpecker hammered out an accompanying beat on a dead tree and a Chiffchaff joined in with it’s own repetitive, but charming, chorus line. Even the Wood Pigeons and Collard Doves had something to add to the tune.

Common Buzzard.

A single Common Buzzard, sat high up on a leafless tree, made for an impressive sight as the early morning light threw the whole scene into silhouette - not a good way to pick out plumage detail but a great way to spend a little time on a Sunday morning! Further into the walk I was treated to close views of Red-legged Partridge, Pheasant, a stunning male Yellowhammer, Goldfinch and also Linnet. The more notable species on or around the lake included Great Crested Grebe, Shelduck, Gadwall, Oystercatcher and Common Sandpiper. As I started to head back to the car a number of Skylark rose up high in the sky and commenced their song flight. They obviously get out of bed a lot later than many species, or birders for that matter! By the time I returned to the car I’d recorded 41 species and, more importantly, lowered my blood pressure by around 95%.

The lake at Barrow.

From Barrow it was just a short drive down the road to Willington where I spent a further 3½ hours. The species count here was a little higher - 52 in total - but again there wasn’t too much to shout about. Wigeon, Gadwall, Teal, Shoveler, Pochard, and Goosander were amongst the pick of the bunch on the water whilst a Kingfisher was a welcome sight over it. The only raptors seen were Buzzard and Sparrowhawk, but seeing 3 Buzzard and a Sparrowhawk soaring together made up for the lack of species.

Waders were rather thin on the ground with Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Redshank and Snipe being the only species to report but hopefully this will improve over the next few weeks. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a return visit by last year’s Avocet. I wouldn’t mind the odd Godwit or even a Little Stint too! The lane and the small area of woodland by the canal held Great Spotted and Green Woodpecker, 2 Song Thrush, at least 4 Chiffchaff, Long-tailed Tit, Willow Tit and Goldfinch. A small flock of Linnet were feeding close to Canal Scrape and a female Bullfinch showed briefly near the second viewing platform in the lane.

By the time I returned home I hadn’t added any new species to the “10-Mile List”, I hadn’t found that elusive Jay and I hadn’t stumbled across any newly arrived migrants. None of that mattered though because the morning was just about perfect as it was!

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