|Male Pied Flycatcher, 29th|
After a preceding fortnight or so of back-to-back house guests (and then a lengthy cold) had rendered recent birding opportunities strictly part-time, for the month's last ten days I was pretty much back up to full speed and straining at the leash to give full attention to the patch again. Those preceding weeks were, fortunately for me, quite muted from a migration perspective (as much of April can often be), but as the following ten days progressed it became increasingly more interesting by the day.
|Two of three Garganey, 29th (add your own caption)|
From the beginning: The 21st was sunny and mild, and a first full, extended circuit of the northern and coastal area for what felt like a lifetime was a joy, despite a general lack of notables (odd Siskins and hirundines notwithstanding). Promising conditions on the 22nd - thick fog (very) slowly clearing after a night of easterlies and rain - justified another few hours patrolling of the coastal fields, scrub and hedgerows; aside from a Tree Pipit, an Arctic Tern close in the bay and the odd Wheatear, not a great deal to shout about.
|Common Buzzard and Carrion Crow over the Country Park, 28th|
For the 23rd, a temporary change in airflow and wind direction (mild, southerly, sunny intervals) hinted at overhead movement, and so a three hour session from about 1030 from my favoured Muston Sands watchpoint, on the clifftop above the bay, followed. Not a hint of the anticipated broad-winged action, but plenty of quality and quantity passerine activity instead; double figures of Linnets and Goldfinches, all three hirundines, 15 Yellow Wags and a Tree Pipit on the move, and best of all, a smart Blue-headed Wagtail (unfortunately flushed by golfers just as the camera was raised).
|Tree Sparrow at the Dams|
|One of several Whinchats over the period|
Back to the erratically-fogbound with easterlies template for the 24th, again promising, and again a little underwhelming - although a smart, fresh-in Whinchat and Wheatears on Carr Naze were encouraging during a full morning in the field. Unable to sit still with decent birds dropping in elsewhere on the coast, I was back out for an afternoon session swamped in fog, more than justified by the discovery of a barely annual local rarity singing away in a clifftop conifer - a cracking male Firecrest.
|Firecrest, 24th - a sprite in the fog|
|Male Marsh Harrier over East Lea|
A similar story for the 25th - many hours efforts, with not a great deal to show for it, except for a smart male Redstart newly arrived on the foggy clifftop, a mobile Tree Pipit and several more Wheatears - but by 26th, movements were picking up again. The morning session provided a wider and more numerous scattering of many of the common warblers, augmented by both male and female Redstart on Long Hedge, and my first Swift of the year low over the Tip. And then there were dolphins....
|Green-veined White on Carr Naze|
A couple of hours at the recently-neglected sister wetlands of the Dams and East Lea in he afternoon served as a timely reminder of waders beginning to move, with summer plumage Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlins and a Common Sandpiper (as well as brief but close-up drop-in from a male Goosander) all present. A momentarily promising Aythya skulking in the reeds soon turned into a slightly less exciting prospect when its hybrid characteristics came to the fore - all those days sifting through the diving ducks on the old patch in London weren't entirely wasted, then....
|Presumed Tufted Duck x Pochard hybrid at the Dams, 26th|
The 27th, and again, the fog rolled in and out on the moderate easterlies; with it came slightly better migrant totals, including an elusive female Black Redstart and a new batch of Wheatears on Carr Naze and at least 12 Willow Warblers in the Long Lane area. While there was enough to enjoy, the week thus far (excluding dolphins, of course) had a slightly underwhelming feel to it; but it was no time for a slackening of the pace....
The 28th was my birthday (with the full account here), and what better way to spend it than patrolling the patch with a mortality-inspired spring in one's step. A full day in the field, and whether the gods were with me or whether I was just trying harder is hard to say, but the rewards were rich and varied: migrants included several new Redstarts, a new Whinchat, double figures of Wheatears (for the first time this year), Whimbrels, lots of Yellow Wags and hirundines, topped off firstly by an elusive and bedraggled Corn Bunting (contextually very rare here), then by a flyover Dotterel in the Top Fields, and finally by a Richard's Pipit at the Tip - quite a day, and I returned home that evening simultaneously knackered, exhilirated and contented.
|Two excellent birthday presents - A Dotterel....|
|....and a Richard's Pipit|
Come the 29th, and more toil in the morning mist - but a cracking male Pied Fly and a Garden Warbler (the first of the year) in the Top Scrub were both welcome. A little brightness in the afternoon brought out the best in the immaculately plumaged trio of Garganey at East Lea, which were fantastically accommodating and provided easily my best ever views of the species; gone by the next day, but replaced by a trio of White Wagtails at the same venue.
|Male Redstart on Long Hedge|
So, a lot of hours in the field and lot of ground covered, but a pleasingly respectable haul to show for it overall, especially for the early spring. And the best is (hopefully) yet to come...