Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Come First of May.

When I was small, and Christmas trees were tall,
We used to love while others used to play.
Don't ask me why, but time has passed us by,
Some one else moved in from far away.

Now we are tall, and Christmas trees are small,
And you don't ask the time of day.
But you and I, our love will never die,
But guess well cry come first of May.

Lyrics by the Bee Gees.

April 30th + May 1st.  Despite the slow beginnings of signs of spring, April has been a great month for me.  Highlights have included a pre-arranged stranding on St Mary’s Island, a great few days staying at Bamburgh which allowed birding and other activities and much laughter, my first Badgers in the wild (joined by Otter and other mammals), a trip to the Pennine uplands and the chance to visit several of my favourite on the doorstep areas including Holywell, Gosforth Park Nature Reserve, Prestwick Carr and of course our local patch.  The last day of April allowed me to visit the coast and take photographs in the main of Wheatears, without doubt my species of the month and a species guaranteed to fill a spot in my top ten birds.  I even think I’m making progress with the photography.  So no great early waves of spring migrants, but the trickle has now built up.  In any event I think it may have sunk into most people by now that global warming doesn’t necessarily mean we are going to be living in dry and warm conditions.  Rapid ice cap break ups and changing wind patterns have seen to that.

Yesterday, April 30th was just too good an opportunity to let pass by so Sam and I visited a sunny Whitley Bay.  Sunny, but cold.  Our fingers were turning red after a bit of photography!  The Yellow Wagtails seemed to have moved on, but we still had numbers of Pied and White Wagtails, and best of all the Wheatears.  It was good just to sit in amongst the birds and get some decent photographic opportunities and we had the area more or less to ourselves.  Afterwards we couldn’t resist taking some images of the Sanderling.  Some of these birds are now moving quickly to summer plumage.  Sam got his eye on a couple of Dunlin in amongst the Sanderling flock and they too weren’t far off full summer plumage.  Eider ducks were swimming close to shore.  Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins were seen.

After taking a look at the wetland area and willows and finding the only bird of note here was a Common Whitethroat we headed off towards Seaton Sluice with the sound of Skylarks in the air.  Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler were heard during the evening and a Pheasant called from the field.  Oystercatcher, Lapwing and Turnstone were the other waders noted.  There wasn’t a lot of species to be seen on the way, but it was an enjoyable walk anyway.  The Fulmars entertained and I think a stop would have been made for some photography had it not been so windy and chilly.  Perhaps our noses had also picked up the aroma of fish and chips.  Yes we ended what had been a very well spent few hours by visiting the fish and chip cafĂ©.  It had been an unexpected but special evening.

1st May.  I decided to look on patch today in the hope that I would find Swifts.  I had hoped in vain and in fact even numbers of Swallow, House Martins and Sand Martins appeared to have fallen as I looked out over the lake.  The Great Crested Grebes remain busy and two pairs of Shoveller are still on the lake.  I think that there were four Common Terns and a few Lesser Black Backed Gulls.

I heard Skylark song which has been a rarity on patch this year and found only an odd Chiffchaff in the hedge where a few days ago there had been numbers.  A pair of Blackcap was also seen here today and it appears to be their nesting site.  I listened for signs of Reed and Sedge Warbler, but heard nothing.

I eventually made for the village and surrounds and happily found numbers of Chiffchaff and after some wandering heard the song of Willow Warbler.  I managed to get some photographs taken, but the bird seemed to be very aware as to how to get into poor light.  I’ve yet to check the photos on screen.

Willow Warbler
I wandered into an area that is clearly used as a drinking den (or worse) as the small burn was full of empty beer cans.  As I was photographing the Willow Warbler I noticed the area had a visit from two community police officers.  I hope they don’t think it was I who had been in there supping back the cans!    I was quite pleased to find that on my short wander I had accumulated forty species.   I noticed a sign along the footpath asking for volunteers for a spring clean up.  I can certainly volunteer to point them in the direction of areas needing a clean!


  1. Nice pics. Hopefully May will carry on where April left off for you!

  2. Really nice pictures of the wheatears, as I said my best ever views! Nice photos of the Willow Warbler too! :)

    1. Thanks Sam. :-)
      Willow Warbler singing near the tennis courts tonight but still no Swifts. Brian.