31 March 2009

Crossover birds

More 'good birding without going birding' in March.

This is a great time of year, because it includes those few days, perhaps even a few weeks, when the various migrant types 'cross over' - that is to say the first of our summer migrants arrive while the last of our winter migrants are still with us.

That means that I can be welcomed on to the Preston Bagot canal towpath by one of the year's early Chiffchaffs (my single favourite thing about spring) and then enjoy the spectacle of 30 or more raucous Fieldfare flying over nearby fields. The Chiffchaff has just arrived, the Fieldfare will soon be heading north, but today they are both with me in this little part of rural Warwickshire.

Elsewhere I continue to see birds wherever I go - a Red-legged Partridge by the A45 / M42 roundabout nr Balsall Common; a Treecreeper landing just feet away from me on a lunchtime stroll (and a second - sadly dead - Treecreeper outside J's office); Lapwing wheeling over fields around Warwickshire, and also low over a Newbury road as I headed down for a meeting; Buzzards pretty much wherever I look (by far our most common raptor around here); and my first Swallow of spring, a notably early specimen on a telegraph wire outside Henley-in-Arden today (31st March). In fact, the Swallow beat my previous earliest Swallow by a full two days.

Bird of the post: Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica), the most elegant of the hirundine species, and a proverbial harginger of summer. 31st March is pushing it a bit to claim summer, but it's still a wonderful sign of what's just round the corner.

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