Sunday 16 August 2020

Lockdown Birding - Spring becomes Summer

So where were we?

As early May became mid May the birdsong intensity dropped and the skies became less crowded. Several Hobby sightings made but no sooner as they came, they went. Two more sightings later in the period as well but on both occasions they were soon out of here, the turn of pace of the one above the golf course treetops would have made an Eleonora's Falcon pause to view. Local Red Kites and Buzzards put on less of an aerial show as to be expected at this time of year, more noticeably the absence of Sparrowhawks who then did make more of an appearance around midsummer's day. Kestrels hovered close to their hidden nest sites, identified by the presence of calling juveniles. Ring-necked Parakeets sqwauked throughout, House Sparrows status rose from mythical to occasional as young fledged from nearby streets, and the wandering groups of Starlings sadly disappeared just as it was peak season for spotting a pink and black variety. Swifts flew by most days joined in the air by both Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and Black-headed Gulls were back in the area. Evening flights of Jackdaws off east to roost began to reform from mid June with over 700 counted most evenings. In nearby woodland Great Spotted Woodpeckers dispersed and one was soon seen flyby the flat window one morning.

On local walks the Blackcaps went quiet, Whitethroats eventually followed suit, a Lesser Whitethroat gave a rattle to say he was still here but Chiffchaffs continued to say their name throughout. Song Thrushes never stopped, one still blasting out his repetitive notes half hour after sunset around midsummer's day. An anxiety call by a Carrion Crow on a Saturday afternoon walk soon had me watching an immature Peregrine circling the area, looking for tea. Bullfinch was a welcome sighting in local scrubland and a Crossbill moving west mid afternoon (June) "jipped" by, a nice surprise and given the ridiculous movements along the North Sea coast maybe more flyovers to come, perhaps in the company of a Siskin or two. An Oystercatcher flying over was a welcome yet unexpected addition to the lockdown list. A family party of Jays moving along an avenue of trees at the golf course nice to see, the density couldn't match a movement of Pinyon Jays through a North American gorge. This golf course/woodland edge, a kind of a habitat where you expect a calling Acadian Flycatcher to pierce the quiet air, but probably 3,500 miles too far north-east. Elsewhere, the drain at Parkfields yielded a pair of Grey Wagtails on several occasions, with one visit producing a Grass Snake raising itself up the banking. "Owling" - at least 3 Tawny Owl territories, a couple of juveniles called or should that be "sniffled" after sunset on several evenings. A Little Owl sighted on the perimeter of the walk one June evening with a further in July at a nearby farm. Repeated visits to the first site gave no sightings but calling birds at sunset. Again with a North American comparison you could imagine a "Chuck" or "Whip" calling in the distance, but no Nightjars here. At this time the paddocks were alive with Rabbits the numbers of which would have made Bishop Brennan anxious. Foxes roamed at sunset and a scurrying shape was a Muntjac deer, one of a couple of sightings.

As the bird sightings took a bit of a backseat, butterflies came to the fore. The local scrubland looked good for Marbled Whites, and this site paid dividends from mid June with double figures present. Commas showed as did the occasional Ringlet and prior to the last weekend of June I could only track down Large Skippers of the grassland Skippers that could be on offer, with several Small Skippers on the wing from the following weekend.  This particular weekend also produced a Red Admiral and a Green-veined White. The grasslands were crowded with Meadow Browns and single Painted Lady and Small Tortoiseshell also noted.  Whilst photographing a Comma I was distracted by Purple Hairstreaks, a new species for me (was first mistaken for White-letter Hairstreak).The dry land habitat made spotting dragonflies difficult though a couple of Emperors patrolled a grassy field and a couple of Black-tailed Skimmers were seen. A Brown Hawker moved by one weekend and in late July the first Migrant or Southern Hawker of the season spotted.

When the Lockdown walks started in March I was determined not to blog about Lockdown birding in the summer, when the Gatekeeper dominated the bramble bushes. It's that time, but I will end by saying that I'd never thought I would make a mention of a Father Ted scene in a blog post. Go on, go on, go on, I'll do another one next time!