A couple of reasonably productive after work visits, making use of the lengthening daylight hours. St Catherine's Pool was notably busy on the 2nd with an unusually high count of four very vocal Little Grebes, the now regular pair of Egyptian Geese, three each of Coot and Moorhen plus a drake Gadwall with at least twenty Mallards - this only my second patch Gadwall record of this year.
The evening of the 3rd, meanwhile, at last delivered my first patch Tawny Owl (76) of the year with both male and female calls coming from the 'Pine Island' area east of Broom Meadow (see map). Also of note were a Little Egret north and a record count of at least thirty-six Magpies into roost.
A dawn start for a ninety minute skywatch from St Catherine's Hill produced a proliferation of gulls: 225 Black-headed, 32 Common and a new patch high count of 271 Herring Gulls, all south, plus a single adult Lesser Black-backed north. This isn't the first time I've noticed LBBGs following a different track to the main flow of gulls. Also of note were 27 Pied Wagtails south, two Kestrels (one high east and another local bird displaying), three Greylags south - one very high - and two Peregrines. There was the usual loud chatter from the Siskin flock in the Alders below the hill but it was very difficult to get a good estimate of numbers.
|Herring Gulls over St Catherine's Hill|
The planned Leith Hill tower watch was sadly postponed due to the inclement weather (although Wes A put in a Spartan hour up there on his own in the pouring rain!) so I headed to the patch late morning and was pleased to see more standing water around after the rain. In Mill Mead Meadow I was watching a few Teal when a familiar 'huweet' drew my attention to a very fresh-looking Chiffchaff working its way through the riverside Alders. Hard to say if this is a rather early arrival or a wintering individual moving through but it was a very welcome taste of spring all the same and takes my Shalford year list to 77, so I'm now level pegging with my total for the same time last year.
There was still one Little Grebe pair on St Catherine's Pool but otherwise not much in this area so I headed down towards Broadford Marsh which was also very quiet apart from a singing Reed Bunting. After sheltering from a heavy downpour in this area I twice could've sworn I heard a Sand Martin call but unfortunately didn't see any to confirm it wasn't just wishful thinking - won't be long now anyway!
Also of note from today's visit were two Red Kites east together, four Buzzards (making use of the sunshine between the showers), at least fifteen Redwing, a similar number of Teal and a single drake Shoveler.