Monday, 25 April 2016

It might not feel like it but spring is springing

The Safari was out fairly early on Sunday morning arriving at the wetland at about 06.30. As ever at this time of year we were hopeful of a slightly more out of the ordinary migrant bird or two but during the night the wind had turned cold with a lot of north in it so we weren't too hopeful. But you never know and if you don't get out you won't see nowt!
Wrens and the regular Cetti's Warbler sang loudly but there was nothing that we'd hoped for sitting up on the old hedge-line. Up the track we passed the place where the Grasshopper Warbler had been singing earlier in the week but it had now gone quiet or moved on. There is an isolated Hawthorn bush a little further on and this had a small bird sat atop it which darted to the next copse as we approached. Once there it sang its scratchy little ditty giving it away as a Whitethroat (143, MMLNR #92). They've been in a couple of days now but this one was the first we'd connected with. They are pretty consistent in their arrival time our earliest in the last 10 years is 16th April and this one was our latest. No chance of a pic as he was far too flighty. 
Nearby Blackcaps, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs all told spring was here even if it didn't feel like it in the freezing wind. Down towards the scrape we came across a Blackcap showing well but very flitty in the outer twigs of a bush but wouldn't stay still for a pic, also in the bush but deeper and as yet unseen a Lesser Whitethroat started to rattle. We got tantalising glimpses but nothing that would get us to lift the camera so on we went to the scrape.
Four Lapwings and four Shelducks were there which was good to see. The Shelducks in particular seem to have taken a liking to the new scrape, maybe next year we/they should think about making a nesting cavity for them on the island. The Lapwings too might nest if the flat top of the island was scraped clear of vegetation but that could be a bit more difficult to achieve unless a decent sized machine could be got over there. along the water's edge the Common Sandpiper was still bobbing away as it had been the previous day. It was then we heard the Grasshopper Warbler and made the decision to try to get a pic. With a bit of listening from here and listening from there we managed to track it down to a small patch of Brambles but couldn't see it. For the best part of the next half an hour it remained doggedly hidden and we were at the point of giving up on it. A small bird flew from an adjacent bush to one further away and that was our trigger to give up to go to see what that turned out to be a second Grasshopper Warbler and was giving  it plenty of wing shivering and tail wiggling while the first bird still sang from his thicket. A second bird arrived in the bush which we got the briefest view of and a 'tack' which seemed to be a Garden Warbler but we never saw or heard it again so it remains a mystery.
The Grasshopper Warbler left the bush to go to another smaller one at which point the male joined it from his Bramble patch - now we had two Grasshopper Warblers buzzing around displaying in one small bush and after about another 20 minutes we still had no pics but had enjoyed some superb sights of the pair interacting.
We walked up to the bridge seeing a good number of Sand Martins (Please, please pleeease make use of our specially built holes) and a few Swallows hawing insects over the water but there weren't, or we didn't pick out, any House Martins.
Wandering slowly back the way we came we heard the Lesser Whitethroat again and had good but brief views of the, or another, Blackcap. A pair of Blackcaps were mooching about in the dazzlingly flowers of the Blackthorn thicket by the new hide when behind us another Whitethroat fired up and this one was obligingly staying still although a long way back in the scrub.
We met up with LR on his way in, he had nothing exciting to report before heading off with one of his dog walking friends while we headed back to the car and the warm. Passing the big Raspberry thicket we heard this Grasshopper Warbler reeling from its usual spot so it has stuck and it looks like we'll have at least tow pairs this season. We had another scan of the rough grassland for anything beginning with W but they weren't there.
Instead of following the track to the car we cut across the now just about dry enough wetland to have a peek in the ponds. For most if them the margins were still too wet to get near enough to without wellies which is a good sign for our Great Crested Newts, lets hope the ponds hold water most of the summer for them.
This is the time of year that gets hay fever sufferers worried, and for good reason -  we saw the first flowerheads of grass of the year today, the beautiful and aptly named Meadow Foxtail. Always like to see this species, it's another that tells you that despite the weather spring really is here.
After lunch we had a family visit involving the motorway. Outbound Kestrels 0 - 0 Buzzards in rather grotty weather. Homeward bound Kestrels 2 - 0 Buzzards - in better weather, it's not often we don't see even a Buzzard on a post on this route now.
A quick safari round the Community Orchard area and the  lake at the top end of the North Blackpool POnd Trail with colleagues to help with risk assessments for kiddies events later in the summer gave us the usual spring delights of Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff along with a loud Song Thrush and a cheeky Grey Squirrel too. It was warm out of the wind but we didn't see any butterflies and only a few Bumble Bees.
Where to next? We'll try to get a look at Patch 2 tomorrow.
In the meantime let us know who's letting you know spring has sprung in your outback.

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