Friday, April 15, 2011

Spring Fever

With a forecast of another day of 100% cloud cover to hold back migrants a break from mist netting and a bit of lie-in was on the cards today, a day for birders to store up energy in readiness for the big push when conditions are better, hopefully Saturday and Sunday: just like the spring birds themselves as they wait for ideal conditions then head north in stops and starts.

Following a leisurely breakfast with a glance at the TV news I definitely needed some fresh air after the BBC told me the UK “is in the grip of Royal Wedding Fever”. No, sycophantic Auntie BBC, lots of us have a real life, and at the moment are in the grip of what is known as Spring Fever which is totally unlike your media invented condition.

I shook off any vestiges of RWF then put a couple of spring traps plus tasty mealworms in my bag and headed off to Pilling where I might find a few Wheatears, and even better, one or two “Greenland” types, Oenanthe oenanthe leucorhoa. During April the Wheatears on our coast but heading north may be of both northern races and it is really only by catching and measuring them that individual birds can safely be assigned to Greenland leucorhoa.

The spring tent traps caught three birds this morning, two males and a female, all noticeably larger than Wheatears I caught in the last two weeks. Today’s adult male had a wing length of 105mm, so definitely of the Greenland race. The next male, a second calendar year, had a wing measurement of 102mm, and the female 97mm, both measurements that fit within the expected range of both races but lean towards leucorhoa rather than oenanthe.

”Greenland” Wheatear

”Greenland” Wheatear

”Greenland” Wheatear

As I waited on the stile to catch Wheatears the grey sky thinned at out about 11am and brought a few birds along, 15 House Martins, 4 Swallow, plus 7 Meadow Pipit and 9 Linnets coming from the west. A Greenshank came off the marsh and headed into the wildfowler’s pools to join the roosting Redshanks, a single Black-tailed Godwit and several Teal. Still 300+ Pink-footed Goose on the marsh, spooked occasionally by persistent microlights.

At Lane Ends it was a warbler morn with 3 Willow Warblers in song, and below the car park newly arrived Sedge Warbler and Reed Warbler also in song. On the pools, the usual pairs of Little Grebe and Tufted Duck.

Back home it became clear, bright and even sunny, with calling buteos overhead. The all-conquering Buzzards spread to sleepy Stalmine.


Looks like a better day tomorrow, an early alarm, a spot of mist netting and those spring birds beckon.

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