11 April 2010

A big spring morning

With the family away for the weekend, it was just like the old days today - an early start, five hours 'in the field', four sites, 50 odd species of birds - bloody marvellous.

I started at Ufton Fields, always a lovely walk if not always the easiest site for birding. I quickly found my first Willow Warblers of the year; they were showing well along with 4/5 song thrushes, a similar number of chiffchaffs and other favourites such as green and great spotted woodpeckers, three jays, two bullfinch pairs, a treecreeper and a reed bunting. As I packed up to leave, I was chuffed to hear my first blackcap of the year, singing near the car park.

I moved on to Napton Reservoir, which was rammed with fishermen (presumably taking part in a match; they all looked very serious). A stroll from one end to the other added the usual (tufted ducks, mallards and coots, two pairs of great crested grebes and a total of 11 mute swans) as well as at least one cetti's warbler, skylarks over nearby fields, two more bullfinch pairs and two swallows.

I drew an almost complete blank on nearby Napton Hill, adding only stock dove and kestrel to my morning haul. So I moved on to Brandon Marsh where there was plenty about for a big finale: scores of sand martins (my first of the year) buzzing around the artificial nesting bank; a pair each of ringed plover, oystercatcher and redshank; nine snipe; and good numbers of lapwings.

Bird of the day: Willow warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus), although it's a tough call between these and the sand martins, both favourite arrivals at this time of year. The soft floating call of the willow warbler carries the day though; from now until September this will be my favourite sound of the English countryside.

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