31 May 2009

Sunny May days in Leam Valley

OK, so late May is hardly the top birdwatching season. In fact it can be a bit quiet. But it seems downright churlish to complain on days like today.

Our 'barbecue summer' is back with a vengeance, with the hot hot days making morning by far the best time to be out and about. 7am at Leam Valley was beautiful and a joy, just as long as you weren't looking for anything rare or remarkable (I wasn't).

The birds were in good voice, if a little elusive. Blackcaps and Garden Warblers both showed well, along with a couple of Chiffchaffs - but no Willow Warblers. A male Sparrowhawk drifted low and slowly overhead, while Swifts screamed on high and Swallows dropped down onto the scrape pool to drink. Reed Warblers and Whitethroat hopped around the waters' edge, taking advantage of reedbeds which have really started to come into their own this year.

And although my attention was firmly fixed on the birdlife, it was impossible to ignore the plants and flowers all around. Again, the water's edge was the place to be, with buttercups, oxeye daisies, red campion and bird's foot trefoil all intermingling to form spectacular splashes of colour.

Bird of the day: Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus), a relatively common raptor which doesn't often give good views (more often than not it'll be a low direct dash past you before you get binoculars anywhere near your eyes). This was was low, slow and gave superb views before it slunk menacingly back into the woodland to hunt.

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