Thursday, 15 March 2018

Winter To Spring?

Over the past couple of weeks it seems that we have moved from winter to spring! However, I have put a question mark at the end of my blog title because sometimes in March winter has a tendency to bite back, so it might not be all over yet!

Towards the end of the month I was at one of my wintering bird survey sites that includes a section of intertidal river and the weather conditions I jotted down in my notebook states that there were "occasional snow flurries". This was as much snow as we got, but it was cold, and there was evidence of some hard weather displacement of birds.

First up was a Jack Snipe that I picked up high flying south! It's so unusual to see Jack Snipes like this, as normally you have to virtually step on them before they fly. The next cold weather induced movement was of a Woodcock that I picked up, again high, flying across the river and heading southwest. At first I did a double take, because my brain was failing to compute what this dumpy, long-billed and high flying wader was! Again, the views of Woodcocks are normally when you put them up whilst walking through woodland in late winter!

My garden feeders were fairly busy during the cold snap and I was putting dried meal worms out for the local Blackbirds, but inevitably this was attracting large numbers of Starlings too. A flock of Starlings dropped in to the apple tree, and amongst them were four Fieldfares! Another example of some hard weather movement as the only other time I have had Fieldfare in my garden was again during some hard weather.

About a week ago I was at one of my mossland winter bird survey sites in southwest Lancs. It was a lovely clear day, still cold, with a light-moderate southwesterly wind. There was lots of agricultural activity and most of the land had either been ploughed, or was in the process of being ploughed. Even so, there was still a few birds to be seen.


Raptors were represented by a female Kestrel and Sparrowhawk, but there was no sign of the leucistic Buzzard. The ploughed fields were still attracting birds and one field held a number of corvids plus ten Lapwings and 24 Stock Doves. Even the Linnet flock was still finding food and I counted an impressive 236!

 Stock Dove

Two days later I was surveying on some mossland on the border between Lancs and Merseyside and it was another glorious, but cold day. As soon as I got out of my car I had three Corn Buntings calling and singing from overhead wires, not something you see or hear everyday.

The main feature of the morning was the number of Fieldfares and in a large field of damp permanent pasture I had 240 of these magnificent Thrushes. Twenty Redwings, 71 Common Gulls, 23 Lapwings and a cracking adult summer Med. Gull accompanied them in the same field.

Last Sunday saw me undertaking the first ringing session for the year at the Obs and it was a fairly typical quiet early spring affair. All I ringed was two Meadow Pipits, but like I said this is fairly typical for early March. There was some vis and I recorded 40 Meadow Pipits, 56 Woodpigeons, two Alba Wagtails, nine Goldfinches, a Rook, a Grey Wagtail and a Siskin all heading north, or thereabouts!

 Meadow Pipit

The only grounded migrant I had was the first spring Chiffchaff that worked its way along the hedge and ditch and some how managed to avoid the net!

It's going cold and easterly again this weekend, so that will probably put any migration on hold again for a few days. And thankfully I should have finished all my wintering bird surveys by next week, so I should be able to switch to fully spring mode and get out more on the patch.

No comments: