The weather of late has been typically fluid; the last week alone finding me battered by gale force winds, soaked by Spring rains and, occasionally, warmed to the core by pleasant bouts of sunshine. The conditions so changeable, in fact, that I have aborted many more walks than I have enjoyed; though, mercifully, the select few outings I have managed have been memorable. Trips both this week and last rife with enchanting wildlife unearthed around the local area: filled with emergent insects, spring migrants and lingering relics of Winter. All of which, together, have provided a welcome distraction from my currently tedious Masters course.
On the avian front, migration certainly seems to be picking up; with yesterday alone filled to the brim with the uplifting sight of migrating wildfowl. Foremost among these: Whooper Swans, with a grand total of 89 observed during a short morning walk. Each and all heading North with some haste. With these, an abundance of Pink-Footed Geese, Wigeon and Common Scoter; with the addition of four Barnacle Geese providing a welcome divergence from the norm and amplifying the highs of previous ventures. Each of which have proven no less enthralling, with ample sightings of Woodcock, Slavonian Grebe, Scaup, Pochard, Shorelark and Twite – yet more species soon to vanish from the area as the new season advances.
Another remnant of colder times has been particularly apparent of late: Short-Eared Owls. With a grand total of eight birds seen during the past week, including an extremely confiding individual hunting the grassy margins of Cresswell Pond NWT – much to the annoyance of the local Skylarks. The remaining seven seen together – over the course of an hour – quartering the peripheries of a nearby lake. These wonderful birds – a favourite among birders, photographers and casual nature lovers alike – looking beyond dapper in the half-hearted sunlight. This record – a personal high count – followed, in in exceptional fashion, by the sight of a Long-Eared Owl hunting some nearby grassland. Always a treat.
Whereas winter visitors remain very much in evidence, the heralds of the forthcoming season have been a little harder to come by. Indeed, for days now I have found myself filled with anticipation and desperately seeking my first warbler, wheatear or hawking hirundine. Well, yesterday, I found them. A visit to East Chevington marked by the sight of my earliest ever House Martin; glossy, lovely and circling over the choppy water in the company of three Sand Martin. Further exploration of the coast here revealing five Avocet at Cresswell, and both Ruff and Chiffchaff at Druridge Pools. Spring has sprung it would seem, though I am going to miss the swans, geese and thrushes.
An honourable mention this week goes to the long-staying Pacific Diver at Chevington – showing well and looking smart, as usual – and sightings of Water Rail, Barn Owl, Grey Partridge and a particularly showy Kestrel.
Birding aside, natures newly invigored pulse has manifested itself in other forms elsewhere. In the form of my first Red-Tailed Bumblebee, Marmalade Hoverflies, wasps and radiant Peacock butterflies. The garden pond too continuing to delight; rippling and bubbling with the amorous antics of Common Frogs – spawning, mating and croaking incessantly. I have seen toads too and my first Smooth Newt of 2017 – consuming the ample spawn left floating and destitute in my small garden. Each of these fascinating sights standing testament to the period of extensive change soon to descend.
My year looks set to get better quite soon; with university winding down ahead of thesis season and the weather permitting an increasing number of countryside forays. I cannot wait and intend to make the most of each and every moment I can snatch in the outdoors over coming weeks.