24 February 2008

The waders are coming (and so is spring)

Family commitments meant my weekend's birding comprised another quick morning trip to Tyttenhanger Gravel Pits in Hertfordshire today (with apologies to any regular Warwickshire readers), with plenty to add to last week's enjoyment of this splendid little site.

As I arrived on a picture perfect morning, I found a little cluster of birders who were already enjoying the day's star attraction, a newly arrived Curlew. Although these are more often seen here as fly-overs, this one had obligingly settled, and indeed was still there when I left two hours later.

Sitting close by were a pair of Ringed Plovers, and on a nearby bank was a Green Sandpiper. Together these wading birds were sure fire evidence that spring is on its way, with these species being among the first to pass through as they head north to breed.

But these were not the only new species which I could add to last week's list. A few Linnet flew close by, a pair of Wigeon whooped out on the main pond, and a Kestrel hovered over one of the sheep field (which, incidentally, were even more alive with Sky Larks than last week - I counted more than a dozen in view at one point). It would have been even more but I again missed out on the resident Water Rail (a real bogey bird for me), and on a Stonechat reported near the edge of those same sheep fields.

Never mind, they'll both be something to look out for on my next trip, which I'm sure won't be far away. So far, a couple of trips have turned up well over 40 species, and with spring on its way, there is bound to be plenty more just around the corner.

Bird of the day: Curlew (Numenius arquata), the largest European wading bird, with a distinctive downward curving bill and a once-heard-never-forgotten 'bubbling' call.

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