Friday, 20 April 2012

100 up and Migrants arrive

I have spent much of the last week at work, on a butchery course, or doing inside jobs to avoid the frequent downpours. It's hard to get stuck into any big jobs in such circumstances, so I've been making frequent forays into the garden with the binoculars, eagerly awaiting the first returning migrants, whether they be just passing through or staying for the summer. At the same time, I've continued to marvel at the last of the winter's visitors, the Short-eared Owls, which now hunt the surrounding fields and dykes nightly.

Early in the week, the northerly airflow was interrupted by very stiff south-westerly winds. It brought with it a constant flow of gulls, but much more significantly a lone tern flew over my head as I weeded . It didn't hang around, but was one of the small influx of Arctic Terns which seem to arrive early each year on their way to their northern breeding grounds.

It also represented the 100th bird species I've seen on the farm.

Just as welcome was the first Swallow of the year, two weeks after their return date last year. In fact, last year's birds were accompanied by House Martin, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Marsh Harrier and Yellow Wagtail, as well as Wheatears and Black Redstarts passing through. So far this year, we have had one Chiffchaff.

Well, by today, Friday, the Swallows have properly returned, with a few hanging around and flying in and out of the stables. At least this year I won't have to worry about creating mud pools for them so they can collect nest material. It's hard to believe that last year there were serious concerns about swallows not being able to nest as we waited and waited for the first rain since February.

The swallows are very, very welcome back to Swallow Farm.

At long last, too, came a male Blackcap around the pond and a Marsh Harrier to replace the Hen Harriers of winter. Frustrating were the two small waders which flew distantly along South Holland Main Drain. Unidentifiable at that range, or they would surely have been a farm tick. I can only think that they were probably Dunlin.

Eager as I am to reacquaint myself with summer's avian visitors, it is still the owls which mesmerise me. We still have two or three Short-eared Owls in the area. The great thing about these owls, besides their masked faces, is that they come out to hunt several hours before dark and have a habit of landing on the ground in the open. I suspect they have taken to roosting up in a nearby field of reeds and they have been giving a very good show over the bottom of the land almost every night. This evening I only had distant views of them, along with a Barn Owl, until one followed the dyke along to the bottom of the meadow, where it met up with a Barn Owl from the opposite direction. Both birds were excellently lit by a bright, low evening sun reflecting off the flowering yellow rape field.

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