Monday, 3 April 2017

Wind in the willows

Spring has definitely sprung. Early Saturday morning was the work party at Maple Lodge but I had an hour or so before it started to walk the boundaries to see what was around. Pretty much as soon as I got there you could tell the birds were getting excited. Song thrushes, blackbirds, robins, chiffchaffs, blackcaps, tits - both great and blue - were all declaring territories. The weather had been damp overnight, normally good for dropping migrants so I headed for our best place, the Long Hedge. This does what it says on the tin - it's a long hedge near one of the boundaries of the reserve and is normally the best place to find and small migrants.
It wasn't exactly heaving with birds, but there was a decent number moving through. Mostly great and blue tits feeding on the emerging buds. There was a constant calling from a territorial chiffchaff as well. It felt just right though for a willow warbler, the rarer but related cousin of the the chiffer. Without a call from it though, it would be hard to find one as they are very similar. Standing by the Jubilee oak tree though I heard a very distinctive trilling call, clear notes ending with a downward finish -willow warbler.
Sitting in the nearest bush was a small phyllosc warbler looking quite sorry for itself, probably fresh in from migration.



It showed all the classic marks of a willow warbler as opposed to a chiffchaff - bold supercilium, clean yellow colour on the breast, and crucially light coloured legs.
 You can't see it from stills but it also held its tail still unlike chaffers which wag them up and down when they call.
It wasn't in full song, probably as it wasn't intending to breed here, and soon started to focus on feeding, another sign that is had probably had a long flight.
Compare this to a chiffchaff, taken nearby.

Much weaker eye-stripe, dull brown on colouration, and dark legs. If you struggle to remember which his which, a mnemonic to help is that the riffraff have dirty legs!
Finally, the last of the spring songsters was also declaring territory near the sluice along the hedge.

This one was quite aggressive and kept coming to see me off!! All together we had a very tuneful little time.
On the lake the great-crested grebes were nesting on the small island, one sitting tight on the nest whilst the other pottered about fishing.


Their small cousin the dabchick, which always breed very successfully on the reserve, was having its breakfast by the long hedge hide, diving down repeatedly for what looked like small beetles or snails.


Otherwise the reserve was looking very nice with lots of blossom trees attracting early bees.
A vey nice morning and another year tick - 182 so far!