Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Friday, 12 April 2013

Incoming.......and wet feet!!!!!

0555hrs: Having just arrived back from a 3 mile walk with Toby, I made a coffee and settled in the study. I opened the window to feel the cool dawn air and silhouetted in my Whitebeam tree was a Willow Warbler giving a couple of bursts of its delightful song before continuing its passage to its breeding grounds.  The presence of this bird brought a welcome smile to my face; however, this was tinged with sadness when I thought of the recent news regarding the sad loss of some Stone Curlews in Breckland due to the unseasonally cold March.   
This Willow Warbler is my first small Sylvia species for the year.  This will be one of many millions of small passerines on the move following their delayed movement from their wintering grounds due to the very cold March, early April, and persistent easterly winds.
The Willow Warbler is a very common summer visitor to the British Isles, it breeds in open woodland, heathland, Birch scrub, commons, and tall hedgerows.  The wintering grounds extend from sub Saharan to South Africa.
A specific area of interest for me in birding is migration. The Willow Warbler seen this morning was passing through my garden as it continues its passage, possibly having traveled overnight on its way to its breeding grounds, it would be interesting to know if any of my followers/birders have noticed any obvious movement of Willow Warblers today.

Today, my wife Pam and myself went to our daughters/grand-daughters home in Irthlingborough to give the girls their belated Easter Eggs. They had previously hatched (no pun intended) a plan to go and do some shopping together in Northampton, therefore, I decided to pay a visit to the nearby Nene Valley footpath.  This vast area known as Stanwick Lakes, comprises a series of lakes created as a result of gravel extraction alongside the River Nene.  Stanwick Lakes offers a wide range of outdoor activities as well as providing fantastic habitats for wildlife.
Although much milder than in recent weeks, almost continuous rain showers made going a bit uncomfortable.  I was walking past a family enjoying a visit to one of the many activities offered when I decided to walk through a patch of 'damp' grassland, I took a step and sank to my knees in water, rather than back up, I continued in a nonchalant fashion through the water trying to put a brave face on the situation - I think I must have attracted a smile ot two and a few comments from the nearby family - good thing I am not known there!!!!
Following the recent prolonged cold weather, thoughts were with finding summer migrants in the wealth of available habitat - my earlier Willow Warbler in my garden was a good sign that things should be looking up.
The first of 2 singing Willow Warblers were found in suitable breeding habitat although no Blackcaps or Chiffchaffs were heard.  Perhaps the Willow Warblers seen today arrived along with the rain showers.
Several Sand Martins and a Swallow were seen hawking above the water for food. The Sand Martins were easily identified by their chocolate brown upperparts, lack of white rump as seen on House Martins, and a brown 'necklace' separating the white throat from the white underparts.  Whilst watching some Sand Martins close to from one of the bridges over the river, a single Sedge Warbler was seen in low down, tangled cover, from where song was later heard.
Other species seen included Tufted Duck, calling Teal and Wigeon, and a pair of Great Crested Grebes.
Several pairs of Reed Buntings were seen and a Cetti's Warbler gave its explosive song.
Overhead, a Red Kite slowly passed by and a female Sparrowhawk was seen.  A Little Egret flying along the valley indicated how successful this beautiful species is doing in the UK.

Surprisingly, despite having throughly soaked boots and socks following my earlier impression of Heron, I didn't feel too uncomfortable, however, it was nice to get back to my daughters and dry off while everybody had a good laugh (including me).  

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