Well, that’s it. Meteorologically the last day of spring, today brought the remains of last night’s gales with heavy rain, gradually petering out as the morning wore on. A few seabirds were lingering offshore, mainly about 20 Sandwich and 12 Common Terns, with one Arctic and a few Fulmars. Otherwise, it’s really a case of keeping fingers crossed that at least some of the local breeders survive this appalling weather.
Bank Holiday weekend. Sun, sandcastles and happiness. But not here. The best that can be said about another leaden grey and chilly morning is that we need these spells of vileness to appreciate the nice bits. There has been some brightness over the weekend, mainly on Saturday when 2 Bee-eaters were heard over Worth and the ringtail Montagu’s Harrier was seen again.
11 Black-tailed Godwits were on New Downs on a morning that was otherwise quiet for birds but sunny and warm enough to search for dragonflies and moths in the margins, which makes a very welcome change from the last few days.
Having treated us yesterday, this morning put us back in our place with some heavily overcast, drizzly and utterly charmless weather. Apart from increasing numbers of gangs of teenage Starlings it was all rather unpleasant.
It remains chilly, but at least this morning did produce a few sunny spells. A walk across Worth initially confirmed yesterday’s impression of song being much reduced, but then the ringtail Montagu’s Harrier put in an appearance, showing well enough to suggest itself as a first summer male. That brightened things considerably, then just to show that you can’t take anything for granted, a Bee-eater flew across the marsh with another calling unseen somewhere in the sky above.
This morning would probably have struggled to amount to a reasonable day in Volgograd, with a penetrating NW wind and spots of rain issuing from a leaden sky. Bird interest was limited to say the least, with song from local breeders noticeably diminished, though a pair of Stonechats was still present and a Turtle Dove was nibbling at spilt seed on the farm track just outside the Obs window. Here’s a photo of the leucistic third summer Great Black-back, ringed as a chick in southern Norway in June 2013 and seen in Essex in two subsequent years, most recently in August 2015.
Slightly more pleasant than yesterday, it nevertheless continues to be hard work, with the morning’s highlights being a Hobby over the scrape and a leucistic, virtually white, 3rd summer Great Black-back with the loafing gulls.
A chill, drizzly start to the day induced a movement of 61 Swifts early on, but it was inhospitable enough for most things to be keeping their heads down. However, in two hours of bright sunshine from mid morning 2 Hobbies were charging about and a Honey-buzzard flew over HQ as the clouds started to build up for the afternoon.
An overcast, chilly and frustrating day kicked off with news that an unidentified Hippolais warbler was in the Elms yesterday and got even worse when a bee-eater was seen heading rapidly north near Mary Bax, unfortunately not seen well enough to specifically identify it.
Down at ground level there was little to report apart from a Turtle Dove purring from the pond at the Observatory, but from late morning raptors stole the show, with at least 10 Red Kites, 8 Common Buzzards, a Honey-buzzard, a Marsh Harrier and 2 Sparrowhawks flying N in about 2 hours from 11am. A 2nd summer Med.Gull was also seen over HQ.
Montagu’s Harrier, Black Kite, Red Kite, Hen Harrier and several Buzzards were seen over the weekend, but this morning was very quiet, with little apart from the local breeders in the bushes and nothing of note overhead. However, 6 Whimbrel were seen on the Estate.
With bright conditions yet again, this morning was predictably quiet in terms of new migrants, but a Firecrest was singing again along the main road and a Whimbrel was poking about among the asparagus field near the Observatory.
A pleasant morning for a walk across Worth, where a few Turtle Doves were evident and waders included a party of about 25 Black-tailed Godwits, as well as singles of Dunlin and Greenshank. Returning through the Estate, a Spotted Flycatcher was living up to its name in the Elms.
Overnight rain was still hanging around at dawn, with the added benefit of thick fog, which remained for much of the morning, only relenting for a brief spell of very watery sunshine. 2 Firecrests were singing along the main road and small numbers of migrant Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were evident alongside the locals, but it was otherwise a tad taxing in the murk.
Overnight rain deposited a few new birds, the most obvious of which were Blackcaps, with presumably northern birds winding up the locals no end. A Grasshopper Warbler was singing intermittently on the Estate, 2 Firecrests were busy mobbing a Sparrowhawk with a band of birds that included a Coal Tit, possibly breeding nearby, and 2 Lesser Whitethroats, while a Wood Sandpiper flew over the scrape, where a Greenshank and 2 Common Sandpipers were present.
A saunter over New Downs in hazy sunshine brought the usual wide range of species, amongst which were 11 Common Sandpipers, 3 Greenshanks and a Buzzard that flew north from the golf course conifers. The Estate was very quiet.
The wall-to-wall sunshine and Mediterranean temperatures continue. Yesterday there was a Spotted Flycatcher in the gullies, 2 Hobbies over New Downs and a flock of 22 Black-tailed Godwits that flew from Willow Farm. This morning was rather quieter, though Reed Warblers have clearly arrived in numbers over the last day or two and at least 7 Cuckoos were seen over Worth.
A reprise of yesterday, with numbers just about identical and very little in the way of movement apart from occasional small parties of Swallows accompanied by the odd Sand or House Martin.
It continues to be settled with clear skies and little wind and this morning was again fairly hard work, although 2 Common Sandpipers were on the scrape and a Firecrest was singing along the main road. A Buzzard flew north in mid morning but a half hour raptor watch from around 10.30 revealed only kettles of flies.
The down side of the improvement in the weather is that migrants presumably have no need to stop on the coast unless they are breeding locally and in an endlessly blue sky with no wind to start with it was consequently very quiet, although 9 Whimbrel flew in off the sea and over the golf course and 2 Little Egrets flew S.
A walk over New Downs was notable for 9 Greenshanks, a Black-tailed Godwit, a Wood Sandpiper and, among the usual suspects, 5 Lesser Whitethroats, which appear to be around in good numbers this spring. At least 31 Swallows flew N, mostly following the river, and back on the Estate a Grasshopper Warbler was briefly in the Haven. Slightly late, but no worse for it, here’s a rather nice shot of the Wood Sandpiper at the scrape from yesterday.
Bank Holiday Monday and a jolt back to reality in overcast conditions with a cool SW breeze, though it was nothing like a week ago when you could almost smell polar bears! A Wood Sandpiper was on the scrape first thing, departing at around 6, a few Swallows were arriving from off the sea and a summer-plumaged Dunlin was on the scrape.
The morning started very frustratingly with inconclusive views of what may have been a Red-backed Shrike, but it was clear that migrants were keen to take advantage of the wall-to-wall sunshine, with 19 Swifts along the shore, a steady trickle of hirundines, at least 6 Cuckoos in the area and increasing numbers of warblers, which were very vocal in the much improved conditions.