Despite the wet weather, fourteen hardy souls gathered in the Stodmarsh car park last Sunday. We split the day in two and did the ‘Stodmarsh half’ before lunch and the ‘Grove ferry end’ afterwards and, as the day went on, the weather marginally improved. For me, the highlight of the day was watching the enormous numbers of swallows, house martins, sand martins and swifts hunting over the water – if you ever needed to ‘get your eye in’ on hirundines this was the day! At one stage, we watched a group a swifts circling high and moving in front of an oncoming black cloud; I have read that swifts ‘ride’ on a weather front but never seen it so clearly -here was nature in action. Shortly afterwards we were treated to a brief downpour!
Another highlight, and another sign of spring despite the weather, was hearing a bittern booming from deep in the reedbed. Other species that kept up our listening skills were reed and sedge warbler & blackcap and garden warbler (my little MP3 player was useful to remind ourselves which was which), cetti’s (easy), nightingale (elusive), wren and great tit (couldn’t they just be quiet for a moment), chiffchaff (easy) but no sign of willow warbler.
On the raptor front we all had good views of (mostly male) marsh harriers, (suggesting that the females were staying put on the nest), a few of us saw a hobby at lunchtime but otherwise this species kept a low profile. Also, kestrel and sparrowhawk.
Other sightings included bearded tit, greenshank, lapwing, teal, wigeon, shelduck, shoveler, tufted, mallard, gadwall, grey heron, cormorant, great spotted and green woodpeckers, treecreeper,long tailed tit (including young with very short tails), skylark, meadow pipit & wheatear. The complete list totaled approximately 50 species.
So despite the unseasonal weather an enjoyable and satisfying day’s birdwatching. Our next weekend trip is the dawn chorus on 19 May at Northward Hill – starting at 6am. See you there!
Updated 13 May 2012 by Paul
The total count seen was actually 65 species: those I had forgotten included common sandpiper, bullfinch, linnet, reed bunting, ring-necked parakeet and stock dove.