What a difference a week makes, last week I set out to find the overdue early spring songsters and maybe a flyover sandmartin, but found winter thrushes and finches this week the spring has indeed sprung. During the week one of the heralds of spring has arrived in force and as soon as I arrived at Great Melton Church for a trip round the West Hethersett Loop I could hear five separate Chiffchaffs singing
Whilst some chiffchaffs particularly in recent years overwinter in the UK most of today’s early singers will have risked life and limb migrating from as far away as north Africa to stake a claim on a twenty meter patch of prime Hethersett woodland. An impressive feat for a bird that weighs in at a mighty 7 grammes. The chiffchaff will be followed in the next couple of weeks by the willow warblers an almost identical leaf warbler but told apart easily by their song. The video link below is a useful reminder of the differences.
As well as the wall of sound from the chiffchaffs there was also the big voices of the local wrens and pheasants and also chaffinches which appear to up their game after the new boys arrive. For the third trip in a row I was also rewarded with a pair of bullfinches feeding on spring buds hopefully these birds will breed and keep the hedge rows colourful. Their song usually gives them away but it is a strange one almost made up of the bits of song that other birds didn’t use. Check out the link here to watch a video and listen.
Male Bullfinch as featured in a number of recent posts but no apology required for posting these beauties.
I continued round the loop and whilst the sun was shining and spring birds singing there was still a fresh breeze to remind me that the temperature is not that high. However it was warm enough for my next encounter which was amphibian not avian but still fun to see. He appeared to be content that I couldn’t see him as he was cunningly hidden under a leaf but I will let you the reader be the judge of his camouflage skills.
Common toad (Bufo bufo) out and about from February but not seen that often due to his ability to hide under an old leaf.
Jeremy fisher was next to the Great Melton reservoir and the fine weather had brought out the anglers as well as the amphibians. I spoke to a couple who like me had watched the many soaring buzzards as well as the odd Canada goose, moorhen and mallards. Anglers are often a source of rich avian intelligence and it was pointed out that the fry of the fish at this time of year are still too small to attract the kingfishers which will no doubt turn up in the next few months along with my missing cormorants and the summer visiting common terns.
Canada goose (singular which may be as his mate is sitting on eggs locally)
Further on my walk was thwarted by a fallen tree which on inspection was rotten to the core and a victim of Storm Katie which had done a similar job on my garden fence. In the same area I was rewarded with green woodpeckers calling and another buzzard which had been sitting in an oak tree watching me. The buzzard was one of half a dozen I saw during an hours walk and highlights their increase in numbers locally which was commented on by several people I spoke to whilst out and about, it is a far cry from the historic populations which are detailed in a previous post available here .
Post walk I got a text from Pete D who alerted me to the continued Pied Wagtail roost at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. I have watched it a couple of times recently and with a couple of hundred birds trying to squeeze into four trees for the night it is a spectacle that delights passers by. Worth voluntarily going to checkout between about 7pm and 8pm.
Pied Wagtail strutting his or her stuff