Sunday, 23 December 2012

Review of 2012 - April

As you would expect as spring progressed a procession of species returned to the UK from their wintering grounds in Africa, meaning yearticks were frequent over this time period. The sea provided the first interest of April with 7 Sandwich Terns and 14 Gannets moving north off Rossall Point on the 2nd both being yearticks. Sand Martins seem to have arrived very late this year and in much diminished numbers, it wasn't till the 5th that I saw my first of the year and I didn't see too many in the coming months. In contrast with this 2 recently fledged Mistle Thrushes at Bispham Marsh on the 6th were rather earlier than I was expecting. The 10th proved to be a very interesting day, birding at several sites along the Ribble with my mate Ash. A report of a possible Glaucous Gull on the docks the previous day saw us heading down there and the bird soon showed up. The size of the bird alone (it was a real brute of a bird) meant it had to have some Glaucous genes in there, however the plumage was more Herring Gull like and so we concluded it must be what is known as a 'Viking Gull', a hybrid Glaucous x Herring. From there we headed downriver to Warton Bank where one of the Great White Egrets was quickly located out on one of the various marsh pools, but this was trumped by a stunning summer plumaged Water Pipit that perched up a log on the shore in front of us. The icing on the cake was a pair of Avocet on Freckleton Naze Pool, one of which was colour ringed and had been ringed in northern France.

Migrants took over once again from the 11th: Willow Warbler that day, Long Tailed Duck and 2 Little Gulls off Starr Gate on the 12th, House Martin on the 19th, Reed Warbler on the 20th and then a seawatch on the 21st produced c50 Manx Shearwaters, an Arctic Skua and 2 Arctic Terns. After said seawatch Ash and his dad Mark gave me a lift with them to Marton Mere to see if any more migrants had dropped in. 2 Reed Warblers were singing from deep within the reedbed near the bird club hide and then as we rounded the east end a Sedge Warbler burst into song. Walking along the path by the scrub on the northern edge of the mere we heard a Whitethroat singing from a small bramble patch, and whilst moving closer to see if we could locate it Mark said "Ash, what's that in that bush over there, with an orange breast". A reply quickly came from Ash, "male Redstart!" Redstarts migrate through the Fylde in small numbers each spring however none of us had connected with a Fylde one before. The bird gave brilliant views for a minute or so before turning and disappearing into the thick tapestry of bushes and shrubs that make up the scrub. Since this was the first of the year in the Fylde we text a few people with the news and by the end of the afternoon a small crowd of 15 had assembled, with the bird showing intermittently although getting more elusive and distant as the afternoon progressed. I was back at the mere the following day and although the Redstart had moved on I managed to see all 9 warbler species that are available at the mere in spring (including 4 Grasshoppers, 1 Lesser Whitethroat and 2 Cetti's).

The morning of the 28th saw me down at Rossall Point for my first proper vis-mig session of the year; it was rather slow going although a Tree Pipit over was a yeartick and a Short Eared Owl hunting on the golf course provided some distraction. That afternoon I headed down to Fairhaven Lake where 6 Swifts were hawking over the water, before heading a little further upriver as I had spotted a large number of Dunlin feeding there. I was hoping something may be with them, but was still pleasantly surprised when a moulting Curlew Sandpiper appeared in my scope view, this being the first individual I have seen away from Autumn passage. The last day of the month produced one of my personal highlights of 2012, not in terms of rarity but in terms of personal satisfaction. A small area of trees lies a short distance from my college and so every morning I had been checking there before my first lesson of the day. It had produced a few warblers in the previous weeks and on the 30th there had clearly been a small fall as the 3 common warbler species had increased in numbers. Scanning a large sycamore tree a small pale bird flashed through my view as it hopped between branches and promptly disappeared behind some leaves. After a few minutes it appeared a bit further to the left and I could it was a Flycatcher species, however I couldn't get decent enough views due to it being very flighty to confirm whether it was a Spotted or a female Pied. Eventually it sat still for a few seconds and turned sideways, revealing the white wing bars of a female  Pied Flycatcher. This is quite a scarce species in the Fylde with just a handful of records annually, indeed it was Fylde tick for me, and being on my local patch made it all the sweeter. Unfortunately as I was going to college I didn't carry my camera on such mornings, so the below photo is of a male from 2010.

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