That’s a relief

Six Corn Bunting including two “singing” birds on Plex Moss this morning were a sight for sore eyes – I was beginning to get worried about their noticeable absence these last few weeks.

New Whitethroats in and singing plus two Greenland-type male Wheatears, big, brightly-coloured, bold and perchy with long long primaries, were moving through to the east of Gettern Farm.

Off the Station Road spur one of the ploughed fields held no fewer than 35 White Wagtails and four Yellow Wagtails, some pallid and some chromium as they scampered over the black earth.

Catch the pigeon…

The Stock Dove was happily grubbing about on the deck and the Peregrine probably didn’t notice the opportunity until it was right on top of it.

Never one to pass up a free lunch the falcon stalled and dropped onto the dove just as it was taking off.

Game over before it had begun, predator and prey spiralled back down to earth.

Hard to watch in the growing heat distortion of a sunny April morning on Plex.

I found myself willing clouds to come in so I could get some shimmer-free record shots – odd to wish the sun away!!!

It took the Peregrine just under 40 minutes to strip the carcass free of meat and just for a change the mossland corvids never once attempted to steal the falcon’s prize.

It’s probably not to everyone’s tastes, but you can watch a snippet of the dove buffet on YouTube here.

To say no animals were harmed in the making of this movie would be blatantly untrue, yet it was fascinating watching the falcon gorging, sending feather confetti drifting over the field and pausing whenever a cyclist or vehicle passed on the track above.

Red in tooth and claw.

A few more Skylarks singing on today’s visit (although I could have kept my shoes and socks on to count all the singing birds) and Corn Buntings still silent.

Small Tortoiseshells, Yellowhammers, Bullfinches and Chiffchaffs around the Cutting, Swallows on territory and single Yellow Wagtail and Grey Partridge calling.

The return of daft

Two new Whitethroats taking up territory in the dunes south of Shore Road today, but they were rather restrained, generally keeping low and refraining from full-blown daft and deranged song.

Good to see ’em back though.

A few Wheatears about the site and at least nine Redpolls in a flock close to the ADC, with another feeding in the willow south of the RSPB car park at Marshside during this morning’s survey, and a few other groups plus Siskins during the course of the day.

This cabaret was in our garden in Ainsdale yesterday evening, when it fed quietly in the big Sycamore that also drew in 2-3 Willow Warblers, a Chiffchaff and two sparring male Blackcaps that riffed off each other, full of hormones and duelling banjos and an appetite for aphids on the budding branches.

Marvellous.

Winning the “daft prize” by a long way today though was a mad Spoonbill that flew past me heading north over Rimmers and Suttons Marsh at Marshside at about 0710 while I surveyed the site. I managed a poor record shot as it disappeared into the rising sun for posterity – or should that be posterior?

The southern end of a northward bound Spoonbill no less.

With Raven, Redpoll, Little Ringed Plover, Swallow, Blackcaps, Willow and Cetti’s Warbler and Chiffchaffs under a cloudless sky it was a great start to the day…

Anyday now…

Relatively thin on the ground at the moment (same as last Spring), changing weather conditions should see more Wheatears and other migrants moving through.

This female was enjoying the sun in a sheltered corner at Ainsdale LNR today, and small parties of Mipits and Redpolls were bounding through overhead.

While still carrying out surveys at Marshside it means I am inevitably late to the show in the dunes each day, so I may be missing stuff, and the dunes are always best early morning.

But you can’t be everywhere at once.

With the northerly airflow easing there were certainly more Willow Warblers and Blackcaps in song at dawn this morning at Marshside along the closed coast road and Cetti’s Warblers were spluttering away but Spring still feels slow.

One of the Little Ringed Plovers circling high over Rimmers Marsh and calling away in the early morning silence was good, but the Spring floodgates have yet to open really.

Tiny spring annuals like Early Forget-Me-Not and Rue-Leaved Saxifrage are blooming away in the dunes, but while the song of Willow Warblers was obvious as I crouched to photograph these miniscule dune specialities, it was nowhere near the “Willow Warbler wall of sound” that should be cascading over the site by now.

This should change over the next day or two with a favourable wind direction and then there won’t be time to ogle Starlings (fine as they are) in the hunt for more summer migrants.

Whenever you’re ready…

Northern exposure

Migrants are arriving, slowly but surely, but it felt uphill all the way today as the chilly northerly airstream kept temperatures low despite the bright sun.

Willow Warbler and Blackcap singing in the garden this morning, but North Moss Lane was Whimbrel free (they’ll be along any day now) although a Raven went through and Chiffies were singing.

Plex was depressing – just two singing Skylarks this morning and no Corn Buntings – what’s going on?

Up at Marshside, the male Garganey was dozing true to character at range from the Hesketh Road platform (just visible above) and two Cetti’s were spluttering, but hirundines were conspicuous by their absence.

Plenty of Ruff around the site (top of entry), and a particularly peaky looking Dunlin was in front of Sandgrounders Hide.

Common Buzzards were sparking dreads now and again, while at Crossens thousands of Pink Feet were visible far out on the estuary wibbly wobbly, well past ‘scope range, but 20-30 White Wagtails were crisp and hyper on either side of the road.

Roll on the southerly winds forecast later this week…

Just the ticket

Bitterly cold during the 7am survey at Marshside today with a cruel north westerly that stopped any migration dead in its tracks.

Plenty of Pink Feet still close to the road, but everything else seemed to be keeping its head down.

Survey completed, my next task of the day was to fix a noticeboard deep in Ainsdale LNR, and while I was down there I bumped into Andy Spottiswood, still trudging his unending patch circuit.

A few Willow Warblers sang on despite the cold, and a handful of Redpoll buzzed through, but then Andy found a fine male Redstart, which I caught up with in one of the newly cleared areas near to Gate 3 on the coast road.

Calling occasionally the Redstart typically shuffled around at the bottom of a hawthorn, tail quivering and flitting between patches of scrub, before coming out to perch in the hard sun.

Blat blat blat.

What a cracker – first meetings with Redstarts are one of the high points of spring on the Sefton coast for me, odd when you consider how frequently you encounter them on the east coast in autumn… but then it has been a long, long winter.

While in another garden…

The aberrant/partially albino Goldfinch is still visiting Dempsey Towers intermittently since it first popped up in November.

Its appearances are always quite fleeting – perhaps because it stands out so.

I’m surprised it hasn’t been snagged by a Sprawk yet.

Through the window video on YouTube here.

Presumably it doesn’t stray far from the local area, and appears perhaps twice a week – with bird tables popping up all over the place since last March the bird has a wide range of sites to visit in the immediate environs, so isn’t tied to any one set of feeders.

Wonder how long it’ll keep showing up….

Mockery*

“Hush, little baby, don’t say a word.
Papa’s gonna buy you a mockingbird

And if that mockingbird won’t sing,
Papa’s gonna buy you a diamond ring

And when that diamond ring turns dull,
Chill with an American Herring Gull.”

*With apologies to Julie Boone of Micaville, North Carolina.

It has been a long day, but there’s still time for one more YouTube gull vid link from the swell caressed pontoon at Newlyn.

Back

What’s not to like? Warm sun on your back and five Chiffchaffs singing away and jostling for basking rights with Peacock butterflies in the blossom and unfurling leaves.

Back on Plex Moss this morning after a prolonged absence and not much had changed – it was quiet, although Swallows were already back on territory around one or two farms, especially on Station Road, where they always seem to go straight in each spring.

A mighty three Pink Feet (two and a singleton nearer Ainsdale) signalled the changing year and Lapwings were sitting.

I probably just caught them on a bad day, but only three Skylarks were singing, and Corn Buntings murdering the concept of melody were conspicuous by their absence. I hope this was just a blip.

Another April of scouring ploughed fields looms…

Everything moving

A day of great migration on the coast in the southerlies and hot sun – at Marshside Chiffchaffs were tuning up, Cetti’s were vocal on both sides of Hesketh Road at dawn and Wheatears were on the haul road again.

Hirundines started getting moving by 10am with my first Swallow of the year north over the dunes at Ainsdale and for the rest of the day small numbers of them came through with pulses of Sand Martins.

A walk south into the dunes from the Discovery Centre at lunchtime produced three singing Willow Warblers, gleaning the bare Birch branches when not getting musical, Siskins over and 17 Common Buzzards in two kettles over the dunes, one of which drew in a Sprawk.

More Wheatears in the dunes, including my first two females, and at least five tilting Chiffchaffs.

Vernal Mining Bees out on sheltered dune slopes, Rue-Leaved Saxifrage in bud and stacks of Little Mouse Ear and Danish Scurvy Grass flowering. Small Tortoiseshell and Comma too.

All good stuff.