Friday, 6 April 2018

A Glimpse of Alba

I was working in north Cumbria today on the higher land overlooking the Solway, and driving to the plantation woodland where I was going to do my bird survey I kept getting glimpses of Alba across the Solway. It's still cold, and on all the higher ground from Dumfries and Galloway, to the North Pennines, round to the main black of the Lakeland Fells and the northern outliers such as Blencathra there were patches of snow. It's forecast to be warmer next week so maybe some of this snow will disappear.

When I pulled in to the gateway of my survey site to park my car the first bird I saw was a Barn Owl 'ghosting' down the lane and over in to the area of plantation woodland I was about to survey. These relatively newly planted woodlands do support large numbers of small mammals and hence the presence of Barn Owl. At this particular site a pair of Barn Owls breed and the chicks are ringed each year.

 Small mammal runs

Singing Yellowhammer, Chiffchaff and drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker were the first members of the dawn chorus orchestra to greet my ears. In the first compartment of woodland I had a Redwing that was giving a little bit of sub-song, as these winter migrants often do in Spring on their return migration.

It was the second day running for an early Swallow and a probable male bird was attempting to forage over the trees. I certainly didn't notice any insects on the wing! A distant Tawny Owl called and closer to me a Starling was mimicking Lapwing and Buzzard!

I had a Lesser Redpoll fly over giving that 'buzzy' call of theirs which I love, and a few Meadow Pipits were heading north too. I moved on to the second compartment and it was fairly quiet in here apart from another singing Chiffchaff. With no leaves on the trees it was easy to spot an old Blackbird nest low down in the fork of a tree.

On the way to the third compartment I encountered three Brown Hares, nowhere near the twenty that I had yesterday! A female Kestrel hunted over the plantation, small mammals again, and a pair of Bullfinch were in the hedgerow alongside the woodland. I always mention Bullfinches when I see them as they are so scarce on my home turf in the Fylde.

 Brown hare, above and below

On my way home I called in at Shap Abbey, as I often do, for a bit of peace and contemplation, although I wouldn't describe myself as religious by any means, it's just a lovely quiet spot. A female Wheatear, three Grey Wagtails, two Mistle Thrushes, a Buzzard and a Nuthatch all made it in to my notebook whilst I was there.

 A cold looking Shap Abbey on a cold grey day

We've got high pressure on the continent that's slipping away east at the moment with a run of weather fronts coming in from the Atlantic. It's going to be southeasterly overnight, but turning northerly tomorrow by late morning, with some rain from about 9:00 am. It might just drop some migrants in, or it might not, but I'll probably get up and have a look just in case even though I'm out at a gig tonight. I actually enjoy birding in the rain this time of year!

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