A cool westerly wind blew this morning, but there were just one or two short lived sunny spells, perhaps a sign of better weather to come?
I left at 06:30 this morning, I needed to get round my patch before 11:00, as the college was having it's annual lambing weekend and hundreds of people will be milling around ! I started off up Ashes lane, and quickly racked up 19 species before reaching the wildbird crop, where the REED BUNTINGS and YELLOWHAMMER were still flocking onto the crop, but in smaller numbers. I went on through the small holding, where a couple of MALLARD and MOORHEN were on the still wet field, with 3 PIED WAGTAIL, overheard I heard the ''chack-chack'' of FIELDFARE and couted at least 65 headed east. In the wet woods the pair of MARSH TITS were chasing around, a TREECREEPER, and GOLDCREST gave some song, and a NUTHATCH called, as did some overflying SISKIN.
Nearing the the lake area I was hoping to find the Goosander seen recently, but they had all departed, leaving behind the CANADA GEESE and MALLARD to entertain me - but wait - what's that ? was it a Chiff, chaff, chiff, chaff chiff I could here faintly? I listened again, and sure enough it was, my first CHIFFCHAFF (77) of the year, just 2 days earlier than the mean arrival date for the last 7 years, spring is really here! Heading back through the woods, with a bit more of a spring in my step, I heard all the birds go into alarm mode, and was just in time to see the female SPARROWHAWK flash past.
After a mid point drink and snack, I headed off through the tree nursery, very quiet here, but there were 7 REDWING feeding on the disturbed fields. Migrant Alley had just a MISTLETHRUSH and 2 SKYLARKS on the harrowed stubbles, but overhead I saw two LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS, 3 HERRING GULLS and 2 BLACK HEADED GULLS. Not much else was seen on the way to the college, the only thing of note was a flyover GREY HERON, but as I entered the Gardens, hurrah! another chiffchaff, this time singing strongly, I managed a poor photo of it, and listened to it's plain but merry little song.
The second visit to Migrant Alley, on the way back home, produced yet another Chiffchaff! This one was in the headland at the north end of the paddocks, they have certainly arrived in force overnight. I thought i'd sit on the horse jump at watch over the stubbles for a while, but before I did I scanned the manure pile, and bingo! A WHEATEAR (78) Yes! What luck, Migrant Alley has come up with the goods again, this bird is the earliest Wheatear recorded yet on my patch, albeit by just one day. Bouyed on by this success, I sat on my favoured horse jump expectantly, and scanned the sky. I was there for over an hour, but didn't find anymore Wheatear, or the much more unlikely Black Redstart (that would get me jumping!). However I did get a flyover LITTLE EGRET (79) the third year tick today! Also two COMMON BUZZARDS were seen sparring high up in the sky, and a pair of LITTLE OWLS were calling loudly in the small copse behind the Greenhouse complex, the first ones recorded this month. A great total of 51 species was recorded today, but that was without seeing a Bullfinch, or a Jay.
Above: The Chiffchaff at the college gardens, and below the Wheatear at Migrant Alley, not very impressive photo's, but a record of my day, nonetheless.