Monday, 2 May 2016

SPRING MIGRANTS and March/April Patch Round-Up

2016 Earliest Dates on patch of Common Spring Migrants:
18th March: CHIFFCHAFF, Stonebarrow Hill.
20th March: SAND MARTIN, In/off the sea at Charmouth
20th March: WHEATEAR, Stonebarrow
26th March: SWALLOW, Charmouth, along the beach in wild conditions
8th April: WILLOW WARBLER in song, Stonebarrow
15th April: HOUSE MARTIN over Charmouth village
16th April: GRASSHOPPER WARBLER, Charmouth
20th April: LESSER WHITETHROAT, Stonebarrow
25th April: REED WARBLER, Stonebarrow
25th April: WHITETHROAT, Charmouth
2nd May: COMMON SANDPIPER, Charmouth

Just putting the above dates in for the record. I've been out early most days in the last 6 weeks. The dates are probaby pretty average for a coastal patch in the south west of England, but it sets the bar for 2017!

20th March: I fluked this shot of one of Charmouth's first SAND MARTIN and later that day I had a brief glimpse of my 1st patch WHEATEAR up on Stonebarrow Hill.

30th March: Another sign of Spring. This TURNSTONE (a migrant? not sure) is beginning to show it's spring-spangled plumage. Here backlit by a watery early morning sun on the Cobb, Lyme Regis.

7th April: Sound of Spring in Charmouth, CHIFFCHAFF are in full song

8th April: WILLOW WARBLER are beginning to arrive in numbers and starting to sing.

16th April: Grasshopper Warbler reeling in a small hedgerow. Great find! Later in the month I found a Whitethroat in the same place.

20th April:  I saw my first WHEATEAR on patch a month ago (20th March and the same day as the patch's first SAND MARTIN). 4 new WHEATEAR arrivals today - This beautiful male came straight in/off the sea and landed right next to me. Again, a wonderful moment. It's backlit by the early morning sun so the colours are a bit "artistic", sorry about that:

Later that same day this WHEATEAR was flushed off the beach to the steep grassy area above the Heritage Centre:

21st April: Early morning, delighted to see these 3 WHIMBREL on patch rather than just fly-throughs. They were actually in the car park and I disturbed them. They flew across the river where they re-settled and began to feed around the picnic tables area before moving to the fields. I watched them for 1/2 an hour until they flew off:

22nd April: 5 DUNLIN is a good sighting for this beach. It was just getting light when I first picked them out amongst the boulders and the light was so bad I didn't even see them leave. The photos are terrible and in two minds whether to post them. I really needed night vision! Oh go on then:

And a little later, these 5 WHIMBREL, came in, circled, flew by, thought about it, returned again, calling, and alighted on the beach. I was using the car as a hide and if I'd been quicker with the video camera I could have had great shots as they chose to land about 30 metres from where I was sitting. They were wild and watchful, very nervous, stopping only a matter of a few seconds. I managed to grab a couple of shots (again in poor light) before they departed westwards, calling, across the bay. One of "those moments" and a highlight of the month for me:

25th April: 1st record in 2016 of LITTLE EGRET and this was also the day that a GLOSSY IBIS (almost certainly the long-staying Seaton/Axe wetlands bird) paid a brief visit. BRILLIANT! You can read about that sighting in the separate Blog post at . Here's a taster.

And I guess this was the moment when I genuinely started to believe in the potential of this patch. It's not easy birding for a number of reasons (but then most patches will be less than ideal) but as I've said before it really will be interesting to see what turns up as the year unfolds. It should be FUN!

29th April: Not really a migrant but a lovely Dorset bird. GREY WAGTAIL - a pretty bird.

30th April: Another 3 WHEATEAR on Charmouth Beach early this morning; this one perching briefly on a convenient beach hut before resuming its northward journey.

So, a good start to this venture, some excellent patch records I think and some wonderful birding moments for me. It's not all good though and I've still not seen a REDSTART on patch although I did see 2 on 5th April at Beer Head with @axebirder . I've not even mentioned the little trip off-patch on 18th April to see the MONTAGU'S HARRIER at Colyford Marsh, Seaton (another birding Highlight for me) or my 2 trips to Portland (on 10th and 27th). I'm going to close with another patch sighting (although it's really a May report).

2nd May: COMMON SANDPIPER I've been hoping for this bird on patch for a few days now and several have been reported locally already and I saw 3 at Portland on 27th April. This morning, I was standing on the footbridge which leads to the beach when this flicked by underneath me, dropping onto the river bank. 1st COMMON SANDPIPER of the year for me on patch. Nice!

And here's a photo I took last week of 2 of 3 COMMON SANDS on the East Cliff at Portland. You can also view it on for 27th April.

So what else will May bring?

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