5 May 2007

Leam Valley on form

Leam Valley was on fine form this morning, offering good views of some of the bird species which can be locally scarce (or at least hard to see).

Spring is in full effect now, and for the birding world this means an explosion of warblers. These fine songsters are generally spring and summer visitors which arrive from late March onwards - they prefer to spend their winters in southern Europe and Africa.

Those on view today were plenty of Blackcaps (I saw three males and one female, and heard another three singing), three or four singing Chiffchaffs, a couple of Willow Warblers, half a dozen Whitethroats and two Reed Warblers.

Given their spectacular red-and-black plumage, Bullfinches can often be elusive. So today I was pleased to find not one but three splendid males, all giving good views. Similarly bright were the two Grey Wagtails I found on the bank of the river, the Kingfisher which flashed away from me at Offchurch Bury weir, the two Green Woodpeckers I watched near the scrape, and the cock Yellowhammer which sat high on a hedge singing its famous little song.

In among the Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits was a single Coal Tit, a bird which shows only rarely at Leam Valley - something it has in common with the Reed Bunting female that joined it.

And the morning's entertainment was not confined to the birdlife - I also got great views of a fox as it trotted around the edge of the wetlands (putting various birds to flight, but being frightened off by a belligerent Mute Swan), found a Muncjac Deer on a footpath in the woods, and spotted a shoal of sizeable Chub swimming together in the shallows.

And as I left, rounding off a very good morning indeed, two Swifts arrived overhead - my first this year.

41 species of bird, two mammals and a fish - plus, as my new pedometer told me, 7 miles, 15,000 steps and nearly 1,000 calories expended. Certainly beats going to a windowless gym for my exercise.

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