Saturday, 12 April 2014

Slow start to spring

This April has been a complete contrast to April 2013. Last year, we were blasted with interminable, cold north-easterly winds that put the final nail in the coffin for our local Barn owls and held up the new spring growth for weeks. Today, everywhere is washed with fresh spring green, blossom is smothering everything and cowslips and marsh marigolds are in full bloom. Puzzlingly, our summer migrants don't seem to be keeping pace with spring. Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps have arrived and are singing from the undergrowth but the skies remained stubbornly silent until today when the first twittering of our returning Swallows was at last heard over the garden.
Our local resident summer visitors, by which I mean Shoveler, Coot, Little Grebe and Gadwall, have turned up at least. A pair of Shoveler seem to have taken up residence on our scrape where at least 2 pairs of Lapwing appear to be sitting on eggs. The Oystercatchers and Redshank still remain too, the Oystercatchers being particularly useful and vocal in assisting the Lapwings to chase off any crows that wander over. Its interesting to see they make a distinction between the numerous rooks, now busily flying back and forth feeding their young, which are ignored and the crows, which clearly regarded as a threat and rapidly seen off
Bird of the week was a Grasshopper Warbler that gave a few brief bursts of song from a nettle and scrub covered bank as I walked back from checking the sheep one morning. This was just a few yards from where we had a Gropper previously 3 years ago in almost identical circumstances on a very similar date. Two Short-eared Owls have also returned to the marshes after appearing briefly earlier in the winter.
Feeling otherwise short changed on migrants, I headed to Minsmere on Thursday afternoon where things got off to a good start with swirling Sand Martins at their nest bank in the old car park. Another summer migrant, Willow Warbler, was singing in the North Bushes. I then considered myself fortunate to see a Cettis Warbler singing in full view for once rather than lurking invisibly in the bottom of a bush. The scrape was covered in hundreds of Black-headed Gulls, from which I managed to pick out at least 5 Med Gulls in various plumages, but apart from Avocets and Lapwings, there were few other waders apart from one Ruff and a Barwit. Moving on to Island Mere a very obliging Jack Snipe was bobbing amongst the emergent reeds to the right of the hide.

Bitterns were in full voice and one eventually gave a brief view flying across the reeds. I also heard a short snatch of Sedge Warbler song
As early evening approached and the heat haze dissipated, I headed back to the North Wall and scanned the field behind the visitor centre and quickly found a now active Stone-Curlew in their usual Minsmere site.

Yesterday, my plans for a day out with my daughters were disrupted by a mega alerting pager, a Crag Martin at Flamborough! With news a little vague at first, I finally set off at 11am on the long trip to Flamborough. First decision was whether to take the much longer thrash along a dual carriageway route or the shorter but appallingly tedious plod along the A17. Guided by my sat-nav I took the latter but after 3 1/2 hours of following lorries and news on the Crag Martin having turned decidedly negative I stopped for lunch in a Tesco car park at Brigg and after a chat with a friend on site turned back for home. Frustratingly, the Crag Martin reappeared this afternoon, but having promised faithfully on Friday that I would take the girls out tomorrow I shall be swinging through the trees at Go Ape in Thetford  rather than retracing my steps up the A17.

Bird of the day today was a Green Sandpiper, a first for the scrape, and there were 4 of the aforementioned Swallows including 2 on the wires adjacent to their traditional nest site in our car port. A House Sparrow paid a visit to the garden for the first time in a couple of months and my husband had a Yellow Wagtail on the scrape too. Spring seems to be moving at last.

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