I had offered to take part in the 2012 Nightingale survey and as I have no idea of the layout of the tetrads I have taken on, it seemed like a good idea to do a recce this week.
We started along the canal towpath, unfortunately as we started our walk the skies darkened and rain threatened, however, there were lots of birds singing to keep us entertained. Chiffchaff called from a wire above us, giving us a great opportunity to watch at reasonably close quarters. Blue tit, great tit, chaffinch, and blackcap were also around us – although the blackcap kept itself hidden within the brambles nearby. On the fields magpies, lapwing, moorhen and wood pigeons strutted. Areas of the canal edges have been cleared to enable a better view of the water, but unfortunately in parts this has removed vital habitat for wildlife, hopefully they are mindful of this and will rotate the clearance responsibly.
This part of the recce over, and with heavy rain falling we moved off to Grain to see if there were any landfall migrants about. The rain continued as we drove along, and we decided to take an early lunch whilst the clouds cleared. A swallow flew along the coast low down, presumably feeling as hungry as we were. A blackcap was heard in the distance.
As the tide was quite a way out we decided to explore the scrub area beyond the seafront first. Starling and house sparrow were our most numerous bird species, as we moved further inland I noticed a warbler in the alexander plants. As we watched it came to the top of the plant and revealed itself to be a chiffchaff. Soon after it burst into song, to confirm the identification. A local resident wandered along and gave us a birding update – he had recently seen whitethroat and blackcap. Cetti’s warbler had overwintered.
Armed with some advice on the whereabouts of the whitethroat we ventured deeper into the ‘park’. Within minutes we had heard the song and after a bit of detective work we managed to track the individual bird down, a quick flash and it was gone, but at least we had confirmation of its safe arrival – a heartening sight.
Two male blackcaps were great to see with their black crowns shining in the daylight. Cetti’s warbler sang nearby.
As we approached the sea, the rain started to fall again, and we made our hasty departure, counting a rookery of over 80 nests on the way.
We bravely decided to call in at Northward Hill reserve – another soaking and very few birds unfortunately, but Irene did spot some stock doves in a field in front of the viewpoint. On the way home the weather did it’s very best – it started to hail.
So just another lovely spring day in south east England.