Saturday, 11 March 2017

March Wakes Up

I've never been a fan of March when it comes to birding, so much promise and hope, but in reality you see a few Wheatears and Sand Martins mid month and often very little else.  

The first ten days of this March were just as disappointing as I was expecting. The sea has been absolutely dire with watches most mornings showing nothing on it and nothing over it, and there's been no summer migrants for me despite a few Sand Martins and Wheatears turning up elsewhere. There's not even been any early March wader passage on the Estuary which often occurs (Greenshank, Ruff, Knot, etc). It's the gulls that have kept me going, with a couple of days of triple figure Common Gulls and the odd Mediterranean Gull still coming through.  There's been nice numbers of big gulls too, but even these have disappointed with no more white-wingers or anything better.

There was one thirty minutes of slight delight on the 9th, when the warmth of the sun in Axmouth encouraged my first Blackcap of the year to sing, along with - at last - my first PWC2017 Nuthatch. It was nice to see a Brimstone too, this helped make it feel really spring-like...

Today though spring really did step up a gear. The low cloud/fog dropped some migrants in the Axe valley, and it all started with a text from Ian Mc mid morning reading "Short-eared Owl Seaton Marshes". Twenty minutes later this was my view...

Can you see it?

Dreadful pic I know!

Yes it was day roosting in a tree - quite unusual for a Short-eared. And it stayed here for the whole of the day too!  I saw two Short-eareds last year on patch, but they are only just about annual in the valley and often don't stay for long, so it's nice to get this one on the year list early.

About half an hour after seeing this beaut, news filtered in from Lesley Clarke of an Avocet on Black Hole Marsh.  Perfect. And bang on cue, March is by far and away our peak month for Avocet on the Axe, you would be unlucky to go the month without seeing one - but then again I have gone a year without seeing one here, so it's another handy year tick...

It was showing really well from the Tower Hide, although I didn't have time to venture up there.  It's bound to have woken the local wader photographers from their winter hibernation though, and hopefully they will have many more subjects to aim their lenses at this year. Another good Black Hole Marsh wader year would be greatly appreciated by me that's for sure!  Interestingly this bird was colour-ringed, and I will post the details here when I find out about its life history. Be great to know where it wintered last winter that's for sure.

Later on today I had another hour out, and was delighted to see Sand Martins had suddenly arrived.  There were ten over Colyford Marsh and 18+ over Lower Bruckland Ponds between 16:00-17:00. I wouldn't have been that surprised if I'd seen a Swallow amongst them, I didn't, but I was really surprised to pick up a House Martin with the flock at Lower Brucklands.  My earliest ever in the UK by just under three weeks (31st March being my previous earliest). Amazing.  I knew I had to get a snap of it to save face, but sadly couldn't do any better than this...

March Mega!

It may be dreadful, but it is identifiable. Mind you the same could be said for any of my above pics!

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