Sunday 7 July 2024

2024 - Spring Birding - A bit of a birding Purpurea patch

At the start of the season Ring Ouzels had returned to their Peak District moorland haunts by the end of March where they gave their monotone song and surveyed their summer home from rocky crags. As is typical they disappear quickly either to breed locally in relative silence or head further into the upland cloughs. Stonechats in song flight and Meadow Pipits numerous, as were Curlew who were already several weeks back on the moors. Before the month was out an Osprey headed north along the eastern edge following the ridge slowly at first then adopted a power glide and that was that, it was out of here! Buzzards circled lazily and Kestrels hovered patiently but its smaller relative was in more of a hurry.

Birding on Cyprus around mid April and whilst it may be a couple of weeks or so after favoured visits for Spring birding it was still good, and can be recommended. This time of year offers the chance of seeing later summer visitors such as newly arrived Eleanora's Falcons and Rollers, but you may struggle to see any passage Sylvia Warblers and migrating Harriers. Highlights on this visit included Great Snipe, many Little Crakes and a confiding Baillon's Crake plus unexpected views of Corncrake and Quail. Not to forget a couple of Blue-cheeked Bee-eater sightings and the returning Rollers and Eleanora's Falcons. Please click here for a summary of the birding trip.

In early May back up on the Peak District moorlands where the becks held Willow Warblers and Cuckoos could be heard as could a singing male Redstart hiding away in the canopy. The first sightings of Hobby at the start of the month a time when returning Nightjars 'churred' as Woodcock patrolled a woodland edge at dusk.

Mid May visiting friends in Germany and birding Waghäusel (Wagbachniederung nature reserve) in Baden-Württemburg between Karlsruhe and Mannheim. A summer home to a variety of marshland and reedbed species and famous for its colony of Purple Herons. Bluethroats and a range of Warblers were on offer this Spring and nice views were had of Great Reed Warbler, Savi's Warbler and Marsh Warblers. Bluethroats were elusive but many Red-backed Shrikes present over a couple of visits as were Turtle Doves. A diverse variety of species can be seen or heard here in Spring on this reserve be it Short-toed Treecreepers and calling Golden Oriole in bordering Poplars the chance of passage Ospreys overhead and northbound Waders on the muddy margins, and a glance on the pools can reveal Black-necked Grebes swimming alongside Red-crested Pochards. On the first visit 1 or 2 Ospreys sighted this time plus 2 Honey Buzzards over the two visits and passage Montagu's Harrier also observed. The latter was unexpected as was a Black Woodpecker that flew in front of us over a field, no doubt heading to the forest away to the east. Please click here for a summary of the birding trip.

Moving forward to late May and Honey Buzzards sighted in the UK at Welbeck RWP, Notts. One a wing damaged male, looked quite shocking to see the extent of the missing inner secondaries. In this period and back in the Peak District where a passage Marsh Harrier was most welcome and an Osprey circled a reservoir before heading East in a typical power glide.

When birding in early Spring in the south east at Rainham Marshes RSPB, London there are clear differences between Summer migrant arrival times compared to back up in South Yorkshire. I remember many years ago watching a Glaucous Gull at the end of March whilst listening to a Sedge Warbler in full song during a sleet shower. 'Glaucs' and sleet are probably both now official rarities in the south east! Hobby showed well over the marshes from mid April this year with a gathering of 10 on one visit giving a wonderful flying lesson from the Serin Mound. No Serins here for what is about 12 years or so. Swifts moving through from a similar time and the river produced a movement of Arctic Terns alongside the to be expected Common Terns on one weekend visit when a couple of silent Sandwich Terns almost slipped by unnoticed. Cuckoos present on most visits later in the period and several hidden Lesser Whitethroats were nice to hear, as were 2+ Corn Buntings that sang from the landfill sides. Elsewhere and Black Redstarts just about hang on in the capital with 2 noted singing in April with still the possibility of singing birds continuing to be heard as we move into summer.

A good Spring's birding haul, but birding highlights continued late in the season. A visit to Rainham Marshes RSPB, London (Saturday 08 June 2024) and on walking back to the RSPB centre along the river wall a screaming gull over the Thames wouldn't stop shouting. A look revealed it was mobbing an Osprey that was trying to shake it off, shake it off. The pair flew low overhead and headed north over the reserve before the gull got bored leaving the Osprey to drift off north in peace over the A13 pylon line.

Next day I was back on site and thought watching a Red Kite flying low west up river over a group of passage Ringed Plovers would be the day's highlights. But, on entering the reserve and starting the walk down the ramp 2 large birds in flight caught my attention as they headed slowly east over Aveley Pools. The lead bird was a Grey Heron but the one behind it was clearly different. Another Ardea Heron but both smaller and darker. With relatively recent experience of this species in Germany and Cyprus - couldn't be a Purple Heron, could it? Hurried down to the seats overlooking the reserve and the Heron of interest was now continuing towards the Cordite woodland where I could now see the head profile, typical Purple Heron and the upperparts and overall colouring suggested an immature. It was soon gone behind the woodland so I hurried along to the next look out in case it came back to the marshes. Thankfully it appeared slowly drifting back over the woodland only to land out of sight on the edge of the Winter Pools. These flight views confirmed immature Purple Heron. I got my camera ready as it soon took off and headed out back east/northeast and out of sight. I put the news out on and returned to the centre to let other on site visitors know. Almost immediately it was picked up again this time flying in front of the centre heading west along the southern boardwalk where it appeared to go into Aveley Bay only to make a sharp turn and eventually settled out of sight near Aveley Pools. It was seen a few times in flight by others later in the day including as it left the reserve heading south east. A much better photo than my record photo below, and taken by another observer can be found at Birdguides - Review of the Week: 3-9 June 2024.

Before the summer solstice 2 or 3 Great White Egrets showed on the reserve and Red Kites seemed to discover the landfill as they did for a brief period around the same time last year.

Please find and enjoy: