At this time of year everything seems to be happening at once. Some of our birds that have been with us for the winter are now departing – moving north to find suitable breeding habitat. Some of them, like these sanderling at Shellness, have a long journey ahead of them. Terry photographed them last week – they may have already gone by now! Other birds are already sitting on eggs like this lapwing at Elmley photographed by Sally last week.
The grey herons at Northward Hill are already feeding young! Although viewing the herony is very difficult at Northward Hill, it is a good time to visit. The adults have hungry chicks to feed so there is a lot of movement in and out of the wood as they commute to their marshland feeding sites. The young birds make strange noises too! Other birds are just getting started – gathering nest material.
Steve photographed this blue tit at Sandwich last week (some group members have reported blue tits already incubating eggs). What a cracking photograph!
However the bird that prompted me to write this post is this blackcap on our garden feeders (sorry this photograph is not up to the standard of the others – can’t get the staff these days and I had to take the picture myself! This male is a central European blackcap that has come to Kent for its winter hols.
Lots of group members have been reporting these birds in their gardens this winter. Most central European blackcaps move to the Mediterranean for winter (as do all of our breeding birds) but in the last 50 years some populations (and increasing numbers) have taken to coming to Britain where they are very happy to join our garden birds on our feeders. At the end of the recent cold spell of weather Sally and I had 2 male and 2 female blackcaps feeding in the garden. The bird in the photograph was the last of ours to leave for central Europe – only a few days ago! Meanwhile, “our” blackcaps are streaming back to their breeding grounds and passing through our woods – we heard one about 10 days ago. So what happens if one of “our” breeding blackcaps meets up with one of “our” late staying central European blackcaps? Do they recognise each other as er.. blackcaps? Possibly not. Apparently male and female British wintering blackcaps preferentially breed with each other when they get back to Europe. How can they tell?
Well, I certainly don’t know, but it is all very interesting and enjoyable to watch. And so much to see in only a few weeks!
Thanks to Terry, Steve and Sally for sending the photographs – great pictures.