In Northumberland, our spring passage starts in earnest today. 'Whats he on about', you ask, there have been spring migrants for the last fortnight or more, with hirundines, wheatears, chiffchaffs and others all along the coast. But all is not as it seems. Those early birds, are just that. Early. The product of southerly airflow well before its time, depositing hungry swallows in an insectless Northumberland, only for them to need to move back south a couple of hundred miles when we get some late frosts.
No, the 10th has some significance, as this is the date when in most years there is a very noticeable arrival of spring migrants. You don't need to scour the local ponds for a one off sand martin or walk five miles of headland for a wheatear, birds like this are much more widespread, and the 10th April 2016 was no exception to the rule.
I was on my way to meet John at Warkworth at 7 o'clock this morning when I noticed a raptor putting up the gulls near Hipsburn. Buzzard I thought, then as I drove the next mile, keeping it in sight, it looked a bit different so I pulled over for a quick look. Marsh Harrier! A male too, slowly moving south. I put my foot down and arrived just before it in the top car park to get it on Johns patch list before it continued on its way. How many birds do we miss like this I wonder....
A quick check of the car park scrub revealed a male Blackcap in song, our first of the year, then down past the Old Water near the estuary we had 4 Black tailed Godwits in summer plumage, 2 Sandwich Terns and half a dozen Sand Martins near the pier. We're on a roll.... Others of note were 60 Knot, a Little Egret and a few Stonechat.
A flat coated retriever rolling on a long dead grey seal provided some value too, much to the concern of the owners...
Unfortunately, none of the summer birds lingered long enough for a photo, but two Twite were more obliging...
|Sandwich Tern and mates...|
|One of the Twite on the washed up flotsam.|
A later tea stop, found us up at the Birling Redpoll field. There were no surprises today but still lots of Linnets, a few Redpolls and 25+ Meadow Pipits. Three small groups of Pinkfeet flew N overhead. Back at the car, we heard the unmistakeable 'tew tew tew' of a Greenshank but try as we may we couldnt get on to it. Still, calls count as a tick in the year list.
Back at home, I glanced out of the kitchen window and first bird I see is a year tick. A male Blackcap skulking through the roses. Nearby a Siskin pair were showing well and even singing, but my camera was still in the car. By the time I snipered out and got it, the Blackcap had continued its migration, I did manage a Siskin though.
Later as I cut the grass, 2 Lesser Redpolls joined the Goldfinches and Siskins at the niger seed. I waited in the outhouse and got a nice shot of one of the redpolls, I'm quite happy with this one. Good light and good range make all the difference.
|Male Siskin in song. Looks a bit soft as its taken through the kitchen window...|