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Saturday, 13 March 2021

Still Waiting for Spring

I write this in somewhat disbelief that I haven't actually seen a proper (ie sub-Saharan) spring migrant yet!  

The warm weather in late February and early March created the perfect conditions for some early migrant action, and right on cue Wheatears and Sand Martins were appearing elsewhere along the south coast - well the whole of the country in fact!  Even during the recent cooler weather the conditions have been ok for Sand Martins, they often stay low in the valley during cold and wet conditions in early spring where the food is, but nowt here yet.

I may not seen any of these proper spring migrants but I have seen some migrants, the most obvious being a big increase in Meadow Pipits from early March, with many grounded in the valley and others flying over.  Have also seen several Chiffchaffs at 'new' locations as well, suggesting they were passage birds.  This included one I watched fly across the A3052, feed briefly in road side bushes, then follow the River Axe north moving rapidly from bush to bush, and another calling in bushes by my work just inland of Seaton Beach.

So with not as many migrants as I've was hoping for (how often have I said that in early March!) what have I been looking at....  Thank God for gulls! :-)

During the warmer weather gull numbers actually remained pretty good on the Axe, whereas normally they'd drop right off.  Never find it as easy shifting through gull flocks on glaring sunny days however when all sorts of shades of grey merge into one.  That's maybe part of the reason I didn't find anything different - but I did try!

Since the cloud has rolled back over I have had more luck, and the recent arrival of some south westerly storms improved things a bit.  The dusk movement last Wednesday night revealed Common Gull passage is still going strong, with 300+ present, plus 12 Med Gulls (all adults now looking off the scale stunning!) and 55 Lesser Black-backed Gulls...




On Tuesday, this near-adult large gull excited me for about 0.4 seconds before I saw it's dull yellow legs.  Mantle colour didn't look right for a pure Yellow-legged either often only looking marginally darker than surrounding HerringsYellow-legged x Lesser Black-backed for me, although am not sure I can rule out a yellow-legged Herring to be honest...




Thursday gave a much better Yellow-legged Gull candidate, although again at first I wasn't completely convinced.  Views of it in the afternoon however seemed to suggest it was a bigger bird than my first impressions, and paler yellow legs on a Yellow-legged Gull of this age isn't necessarily a problem.  So I'm happy to have this one, a second-winter considering the amount of juvenile feathers in the wing...





Other snippets of interest since my last post include the continued presence of two wintering Greenshank on the Axe (although the Avocet left after the cold snap ended in Feb), a calling Green Sandpiper on Colyford Marsh on 26th Feb (presumably an elusive wintering bird) and this fabulous pair of Pintail on the river on 5th March...


Although I often find March as a month for birding extremely frustrating, as I just want real spring to get going, I do enjoy watching the seasons change.  A couple of weeks ago this frosty field was crammed with Fieldfares...


Whilst above my head a local Song Thrush was belting out its fabulous spring song...


Here's hoping my next post will include a photo or two of a stunning male Wheatear...


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