2 July 2016

Spring into summer: four months in one post

Ah, the catch-up post – the tax demand of the blogosphere. No one wants to read it, few enjoy it when they do, and the longer you put it off, the worse it gets.

However, for the sake of keeping my own notes up to date (and remember that The Hornet’s Nest serves above all as my birding diary), I’m afraid that a short review of recent months is required.

Clearly disillusioned by my autumn dips (most notably on the Bearded Tits at Napton Reservour) my notebook suggests I took off all of December and January.

February saw a resumption though, with Draycote to the fore: drake Smew, Great Northern Diver, Greater Scaup, and a stunningly low fly-by of 200+ Golden Plover were among the highlights.

A country tick (photo by Jez)
March featured the miracle of a county tick. As I drove to work near Norton Lindsey one morning, the usual drag of being stuck behind a tractor was considerably alleviated by the sight of a Red Kite drifting slowly across my windscreen from left to right.

It’s taken years for me to finally connect with one of these beauties inside the county boundaries, and would you believe that not two weeks later I ran into another, this time while out cycling near Napton (and that only because I took a turn down the wrong lane for 200 yards).

By April and May I was back in full birding swing (in so far as I ever am these days).

An early April trip to Brandon Marsh threw up joys aplenty: 2 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Little Egret, a male & female Pintail, my first Willow Warbler of the year, Redshank, Oystercatcher and a pair of Shelduck.

Spotted Flycatcher (photo: sebastien bertru
Just a few days later I enjoyed a magical evening at Napton Reservoir where hundreds of newly arrived hirundines swept low over the water and surrounding fields. 75% Swallows, 20% Sand Martins and 5% House Martins - plus great views of a Lesser Whitethroat and a beautiful White Wagtail.

I was all over May; I smashed it out of the park ;-) Yellow Wagtail at Napton Res (admittedly that was while I was dipping on a Redstart, but hey ho),  Common Sandpiper and Little Ringed Plover at Brandon, Red-legged Partridge as I cycled near Offchurch, and a beautiful (and very early) family of Spotted Flycatchers at another favourite local destination – the patch had truly come alive.

Two special trips bring this marathon catch-up to a conclusion.

In mid-May, J and I took our first (and much overdue) trip to Upton Warren in Worcestershire. We went principally to see the Avocets which are encouraged to breed there by the unusual brackish inland waters. But there was so much more besides. Ringed and Little Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper, Little Egrets, great views of a Water Rail just in front of the tiny book hide and – this the crowning glory – three Black Terns feeding relentlessly over the larger of the waters, a small part of a widespread national fall.

By June we were in Devon, where a trip to Yarner Wood is always an absolute must. No Redstarts on this occasion, but I did connect with a female Pied Flycatcher and enjoyed the closest possible views of a brilliant yellow-and-white Wood Warbler.

Eurasian Golden Plover (photo: Sue)
Ancient oak woodland is in short supply in Warwickshire, but so (as you might have noticed) is coastline. That made Dawlish Warren at the mouth of Devon’s River Exe pretty hard to beat.

We were there for a family beach day, and found the nature reserve by chance. Something of a result all around, since at the end of a great beach + funfair day we took the opportunity to walk across to the main hide, finding as we went plenty of Stonechat, Linnets, a score or more of Oystercatchers, 2 Bar-tailed Godwits, 2 Whimbrel (my first for some years), Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Great Black-backed Gulls and, most surprisingly of all, a Golden Plover in virtually full breeding plumage – an unusual bird in these parts at any time of year, and in these colours a first for me.

Full circle then from February’s fly-by of winter-plumaged plover, and a gloriously bright conclusion to four months of episodic but enjoyable birding.

Bird of the season: Almost impossible to call, but I’m going for Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striapa): admittedly one of the more common of the birds recorded in this post, but much declined in recent years. As a patch-birder at heart, finding a successful brood in the heart of my patch probably brings me more pleasure than any number of exotic rarities elsewhere (although as a county tick the Red Kite's were both a bit special, and that breeding-plumage Golden Plover did lift the heart more than a little).

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