I normally associate the dry rattling of a Lesser Whitethroat with the type of hot, sunny, still days we’ve been experiencing for the last fortnight.
The appearance of one near the office in the dark, wet conditions of the welcome rains today was certainly no problem though – I love listening to these things singing away from dense cover.
Today’s bird had the decency to clamber up to the top of a birch sapling to get its rattle on in the rain before slipping back out of sight in the scrub – marvellous.
Dark, wet and distant, hence the worse than normal images of the bird, but if you think they’re bad, wait till you see my video clip of it on You Tube here, free with added shake.
Stock Dove out there again with all the other usuals – Gropper, Whitethroats, Sedge Warbler, Willow Warbler, Stonechat, Skylarks, Mipits etc.
Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs joined the chorus around Sands Lake, where a Grey Wagtail added a splash of colour and the super-weird Bogbean was in flower again.
Completing my delivery round later, Southport’s Marine Lake appeared to have swarms of hirundines hunting low to the water just behind the sluice, to the south of West Lancs Yacht Club.
The mist and cloud weren’t quite as productive as I’d hoped migrant-wise this morning as I combined my daily exercise with a site visit at Ainsdale.
Plenty singing away – 30+ Whitethroats, the infestation of Willow Warblers, 4-5 Grasshopper Warblers, only 3 Sedge Warblers on my circuit and of course Skylarks, Dunnocks and Wrens, all of which are having a ball as the site remains quieter in terms of humans and dogs than usual.
Best songster of the morning though was a Water Rail which has been on territory for a few weeks now and snored, squealed, coughed and barked like there was no tomorrow from deep cover at first light.
Just four nice bright Wheatears and pulses of Sand Martins and Swallows north.
The quiet continues to see some species benefitting and pushing into new territories – Lapwings, Greylags and squadrons of Shelducks, some clearly nesting.
Some slacks are still deeply flooded as mentioned on previous posts and Teal, Gadwall, Tufties, Mallards and others are all paired off and looking shifty in this bizarre new “Planet of the Ducks”, and that’s before I get to Sands Lake.
A Greenshank headed north calling away and a few squadrons of Dunlin did likewise.
Just one lone Redpoll though – I can count up the number of these and Siskins I’ve had this spring without taking my shoes and socks off.
Wall Brown butterflies and Ruby Tiger on the wing.
Thanks as ever for all your news – please keep it coming, it’s good to stay in touch in this strange world.
Like a corkscrew rammed and twisted into my ear, the Corn Bunting’s welcome song pierced through the open window of the van as I drove through the Hightown Bends this morning on the way to a job.
Strange how quickly you miss them, wonderful to hear one after the space of a few weeks.
No more melodic, but still cool.
Far sweeter notes from yesterday’s Garden Warbler in the dunes at Ainsdale, but neither sight nor sound of it this afternoon.
You can listen to a snatch of its wonderful song amongst Willow Warblers etc from a phone clip I’ve stuck on You Tube here.
Meanwhile plenty of Whitethroats and Willow Warblers singing in the dunes today, with fewer Sedge Warblers and 4-5 Groppers – only to be expected in the soaring temperatures.
Flooded areas still surviving the month long drought in the dunes host at least two pairs of Greylag Goose with young, five pairs of Teal, numerous Mallards and Coots and a few Shelducksand other bits and bobs.
Two pairs of Little Grebes too – who would have thought it in a sand dune system?
Never fun surveying the damage after the latest dune blaze sparked by half-wits, but out beyond the ash and charred habitat at Birkdale, a passing Hooded Crow momentarily lifted the spirits.
The bird was flapping down the huge expanse of golden sands out beyond the Green Beach, but I managed a record shot thanks to the zoominess of the P900 at full stretch from the dune ridge above the Coast Road.
Even with a tiny image the bird seemed to have a bit much grey in the vent and not enough black on the head, but it was too far off to get hung up over the niceties.
Cabin Hill in Formby is always a good place to look for ’em in spring, specifically in the fields of Marsh Farm (from public footpaths of course) for those whose exercise regime may take them that way.
Closer to me, Wheatears looked bewildered in the ash after last night’s blaze at Birkdale, which stretches over five reeling Grasshopper Warbler territories, while way out past Hooded Crow range up to ten Gannets were plunge diving in the sun over the rising tide, and a few groups of Common Terns were fishing.
It has been a ridiculously long time since I last looked at the sea, even at extreme range like this, and the blues and greens never looked better.
Back over the dunes three Jays flopped north east into the strengthening wind, and Swallows and Martins were passing in some numbers today.
The strong, yet cold easterly breeze and hot sun were an odd combination for my constitutional through the dunes at lunchtime, but even a short visit suggested migration was starting to get its groove on.
A young Marsh Harrier drifted north, giving the gull colony a fit of the screaming abdabs, although like any good predator it kept the sun at its back, meaning I was always squinting at it until it was past me and away.
Three, but possibly as many as five, Whinchats were zinging about, darting over dunes and out of sight whenever I got close, but you can’t beat being stared down by one of these beauties…
More Wheatears were on the move too, with big counts elsewhere on the coast today.
I had to make do with a handful – still welcome though.
The Groppers, Whitethroats and Willow Warblers were all singing fit to burst and a steady passage of Swallows and Sand Martins was certainly heavier than of late.
Best of all in the hirundine line was a House Martin which scudded over the rooftops at Dempsey Towers as I got home from work this evening – my first one of the year, and probably my latest arrival date in years, but these are strange times after all.
That sharp intake of breath, the softly uttered expletive, then the word “sorry” – this is not what you want to hear when your other half is cutting your hair lockdown stylee.
Mrs D claimed she had watched a “how to” video on the web so had an idea of what to do before charging up the clippers.
I assumed she had been surfing “DIY flat-tops”, not “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”.
On the upside I still have both ears and the doctor informs me the bleeding will stop fairly soon.
It grows back anyway right?
Only joking, as in all things, the boss has done a fabulous job, and as she buzzed away I had plenty of time to reflect on my morning walk on site at Ainsdale.
Surprisingly cold first thing, but it rapidly became obvious a fair few new Whitethroats had arrived – they were singing and leaping into the air all over the place.
Sedge Warblers and Willow Warblers chuntering away too, and the Grasshopper Warbler that has been holding territory in the same spot for the last week was reeling loudly, and even occasionally visible – see pic at the top of this entry.
Today’s Rouzel encounter with two males followed the now well-established routine – rounding a low dune I locked eyes on a fine male, we both froze for nano-seconds then the Mountain Blackbird powered into the Creeping Willow and oblivion, trailed shortly after by a second bird I hadn’t even noticed until that moment.
Probably the same two birds that have been around since last week.
Probably, but I’m not complaining.
Several pairs of Teal, Greylags and even Shoveler have joined Little Grebes, Coot and BHGs on the more flooded areas, and Snipe seem to be lingering… it’d be marvellous to watch their evening display flight over the dunes again.
Walking off a beautiful blue Stock Dove rose in front of me – not scarce in the dunes by any means these days, but always a pleasure to come across.
Brief views of a fine male Whinchat while I was working in the dunes earlier today – my first of the year – were brill, so I took a short walk from the office later on and managed to catch up with another one.
Probably my favourite spring migrant, but I’ve explored the reasons for that in times past, so rather than go all Mark Cocker on you, simply look at entries in April and May in previous years for more of that.
They’re just great birds.
It was quite blowy, but that didn’t stop me trying some shaky video this evening, which you can watch on You Tube here.
The bird did a better job of staying stable on the top of a hawthorn sprig than I did holding the P900 steady.
Apologies as usual.
More singing Whitethroats today, Stonechats carrying food and at least 5 Wheatears, three of which were big, bright tree perching birds… all very Greenlandish.
Two Stock Doves and a few more Swallows zipping through, with birds perching up on overhead wires for a good mid-migration preen.
Thanks as ever for all your news – keep it coming please!
The days of unbroken blue sky continue on the dunes, with hirundines scarce and presumably bombing north high, high overhead.
Some of the cattle remained unco-operative as the herd’s “winter” grazing season comes to an end (mentioning no names, but 200777 you may well hang your head in shame), although half were corralled by the end of play today.
In betweens Reed Bunting and Meadow Pipit seem to be holding more territories than last year as folk commendably stay away from the site (thanks all) and while plenty of Willow Warblers are still lilting in the sun, only a few new Whitethroats and a Sedge Warbler were singing on my normal circuit today.
Two reeling Groppers though, and another fly-through Tree Pipit.
Best bird was a male Ring Ouzel, which flew ahead of me before melting away into the Creeping Willow.
These are the fleeting moments that this strangest of springs will be remembered for.
Another high point today was when my round of late pm deliveries unexpectedly took me from Maghull to Southport via the mosses (thank you SatNav gods) – odd how quickly you miss a landscape.
I thrilled at the sight of Lydiate’s activity Rookery as I tootled along, before turning coastwards across Carr Moss, blinded by the saturated yellow of blooming Rapeseed Oil.
Swallows, so hard to come by in numbers on the coast so far, are already on territory around several farmyards.
Meanwhile squadrons of tractors turned and levelled fields into a vast floor of rich black Lancashire earth, ready for passing Dotterels that probably no one will see.
Back at Dempsey Towers a beast of a young GBB was perched up on a neighbour’s roof – I’d love to see that brute landing in the garden, and a Kestrel has passed over twice in the last few days.
Usually a really scarce bird around our home.
Thanks to everyone for letting me know what you’re seeing – keep the sightings coming, it’s great to hear from you all.
One of the unintentional benefits of the lockdown is the drastic reduction of dogs running off lead and uncontrolled through the dunes.
There I’ve said it.
And so have the ground-nesting birds that fail every year because our “four-legged friends” are “just having a good run” all over the place.
Fewer “barker’s eggs” too, which is another plus.
Before the howls of protest, I should point out I actually like dogs, even counting Stanley the Alsatian among my closest friends. I just wish more owners would remember that the coastline is largely a Site of Special Scientific Interest first and foremost rather than a dog adventure playground.
The enforced quietness means some ground-nesting species like Skylarks that frequently fail because of repeated disturbance and/or predation are setting up territories in areas where I’ve not noticed them before.
One “new” pair is close to the office and I watched the female trundling down a narrow track through Creeping Willow and Marram in the sun for awhile today, while the male sang up in the blue nearby.
She was feeding, but for a minute or two she froze and hunkered down on the path, as if prospecting this quite unsuitable site as a nesting spot, while keeping a beady eye on me the whole time.
Then she thought better of it and hurried off.
I once watched a Temminck’s Horned Lark doing much the same thing in Morocco, but that was a different universe and a very different time.
Lark guru Ian Wolfenden may be able to explain the behaviour – I don’t think it was distraction, as she carried on feeding close by as I walked past.
I was just grateful for the fleeting moments of escape.
Don’t forget to keep on letting me know what you’re seeing on your daily exercise walk, or in the garden or park, spring is still springing after all…
You never get the drop on Ring Ouzels, and two males in the dunes were no exception, powering away long before I got near them as I checked the cattle, bins and boardwalks on one of our sites this morning.
One of the Rouzels deigned to pause on top of a distant holly bush for a few seconds before disappearing.
Usual spring numbers have been passing along the Sefton coast this week, and I had two, possibly three, today.
Such wild, wary birds.
The cows are looking fine, but on site for a bit longer this year, although the Herdwick Sheep have moved back onto the National Nature Reserve – so if you exercise a dog in the dunes, please keep it on a lead as directed.
Their trampling heavy footfall has cleared rank vegetation in many areas – great for creating open habitat ideal for dune spring annuals like Spring Vetch, tiny, but one of my faves…
Perhaps because it is so much quieter now, I heard up to four Tree Pipits this morning, all disembodied “bzzzdt” calls in the misty blue skies before cloud edged in from the south west.
Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat and three reeling Groppers have joined the chorus too, but the main soundtrack is still a glorious loop of Willow Warblers.
I videoed one in the early morning calm.
You can watch/listen on YouTube here.
One Willow Warbler has joined the Chiffchaffs and Blackcap at Dempsey Towers too, but is a weaker singer than this one.
Cows counted, fences and bins checked, I headed home before the world woke up.
Happy Easter all.