Well it certainly feels like spring now!
Much milder air has dominated since last weekend, and although the weather hasn't been particularly nice whenever the sun has emerged from behind the clouds its warmth has been apparent. The sight of these have also helped with the spring-feeling too...
|It's only a few pixels of Wheatear but doesn't that image just make you feel warm inside|
I have seen more Wheatear in the last week than I did throughout the whole of last spring on the Axe (14 my spring 2022 total).
My first were six (all males) from work, feeding on Sheep's Marsh on the morning of Wednesday 15th - the same day quite a widespread arrival occurred along the south coast (see Portland blog). I didn't see any on Thursday but on Friday there were nine in the field to the north of Seaton Marshes (including my first female) and six on Beer Head at last light - so that's 21 and we are not even on the 20th of March yet! It is so great to have them back!
|Male and female Wheatear|
Following my two early Sand Martins last week, a flock of 50 over Seaton Marshes on Thursday late afternoon became 90+ by Friday morning. It was amazing to be stood under the flock listening to their almost constant chattering calls as they fed, often low over the marshes. A true delight...
|Sand Martin flock|
Although I haven't seen any other new species of summer migrants aside from Wheatear since my last post, Chiffchaffs are arriving in seemingly good numbers at the moment. There were a couple of singing birds around the Borrow Pit on Friday morning as well as several others dotted around in ditches, hedges and even one just up the road from my house.
There's clearly been a few Stonechats passing through too, I have seen more in the last few days than I have all winter. This bird on Seaton Marshes - with huge white wing patches and a white-looking rump - looked particularly striking encouraging me to contemplate rubicola...
|Presumably within range for hibernians though - a paler/white belly would have made it look more convincing|
It was nice to enjoy a bit of seawatching on Tuesday morning. I only had an hour but it was good to see Fulmar, Kittiwake and Gannet passing in reasonable numbers - many quite close. Two flocks of Golden Plover came flying through west low over the waves, a nine and a four, not a species I have seen migrating low over the sea much at all. Year ticks came in the form of a Great Northern Diver which flew west shortly after a trio of Red-throats went by, and a Skylark which flew in off the sea in true spring vismig style!
Gull passage is still very much underway on the Estuary, with large gull numbers high including a good turn-over of Lesser Black-backs. Common Gulls are also passing through in excellent numbers still, but Black-headed Gull numbers have noticeably dropped off now. There are still a few Med Gulls dropping in though, including a lovely pair of adults that flew in off the sea calling on Thursday morning. I will never get bored of adult summer Meds, they just look so clean cut and crisp amongst the carpet of white, grey and brown...
|Leading the flock, both in position and looks!|
And then today came a real nice spring highlight - four Tufted Ducks on The Borrow Pit, Seaton Marshes. They were found by Susie earlier today but thankfully remained until I managed to get to them at about 4:30pm...
|Three drakes and a female|
|...and they weren't always asleep!|
Although Tufties are our most regular of the diving duck species on the Axe (not counting sawbills - we get more Goosanders) it is a species that still could be missed in a 12 month period. Four together is a high count for us, more often than not spring records relate to single birds.
So with the addition of Wheatear, Skylark, Great Northern Diver and Tufted Duck my Patchwork Challenge year list stands at 115 species, amounting to 146 points.
Hopefully one of the many Alpine Swifts currently in the UK will now do the decent thing...