Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The first 3 hours of daylight this morning were blighted by dense fog, and very little was seen or heard as I walked a circuit of the sheep pasture and paddocks of Migrant Alley, all very frustrating for the last visit of the month.

It was just after 09:00hrs that the fog began to clear, and some warm sunshine developed, all too late really as the best part of the day had gone. The LESSER WHITETHROAT was singing from the Greenhouse Grounds for the third consecutive day, a good sign for a breeding attempt, a COMMON WHITETHROAT was singing from the small scrubby area that has begun to develop around the old shack in the Ashes Lane Field where a few SWALLOWS had started to feed around the sheep.
SONGTHRUSH on the Greenhouse roof
The sunshine broke through fully as I arrived at the lakes and Scrubby Woods, I had a look at the MISTLETHRUSH nest as I passed, and it seems I had written it off prematurely, as I could see at least 2 downy headed young moving about, good news! In the Scrubby Woods, BLACKCAP and CHIFFCHAFF made up todays summer bird count, as Turtle Dove and Garden Warbler weren't recorded so wont be on the April list this year  :-(
Speckled Wood Butterfly in the Scrubby Woods
On the lakes a GREYLAG GOOSE pair had brought its four goslings onto the main lake, where 4 male MALLARDS were also seen, the lone adult COOT and MUTE SWAN pair were on the ornamental lake, while the small lake had just a pair of CANADA GEESE and a single MOORHEN present.

A two hour sky watch later on, in some lovely warm sunshine, failed to produce the first Swift of the year, in fact very little was seen in the sky, lots of BUZZARDS were up, the biggest group being of 4 birds, a SPARROWHAWK and a HERRING GULL flew over but that was about it, not very good! I did at least see the first two newly fledged STARLINGS being fed in a nearby large garden, the earliest I have recorded since keeping a first sighting date for fledglings, which started in 2011.

At the months end then, a tally of 72 species was recorded, which puts it in joint 4th place out the 13 years, joint with 2009, and 3 less than the previous 5 years mean average. Overall it was a bit of a disappointing month, with the likes of the already mentioned Turtle Dove, Garden Warbler and Swift not being seen when they have occurred in most previous Aprils. Cuckoo, Willow Warbler and House Martin just passed through, when they were once breeding birds here. Winter left overs were few as well, with Redwing, Fieldfare and Lesser Redpoll all departing in March. The likes of Grey Wagtail and Kingfisher are also normally seen in April, they may have been found over at the college grounds, a place that I no longer visit due to the poor habitat management there, so it wasn't a certainty they still use the area anyway, as is the case for the Spotted Flycatcher, a species I may not find at all on my patch this year  :-(

The loss of habitat and increased disturbance at Migrant Alley was probably the cause for one of the poorest Aprils for passage birds at this migrant favoured area, just one Wheatear record and a couple of Yellow Wagtail records were it!

On the positive side, I did add a new species to the 13 year combined April list, which now stands at 109 with the Green Sandpiper that was seen over at the ornamental lake on the 3rd. Peregrine, Hobby and Red Kite joined the Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard to make six raptor species for April. Finding Mediterranean Gull and Red Partridge boosted the list, both are scarce birds here.
I took this image of the Greylag Goose last evening - an almost shot!

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