Our group met at Riverside Country Park for the first of this season’s Tuesday morning walks. Our key target species was the nightingale. Two birds had been heard singing a few minutes earlier so we set off with great expectations. We stopped, on route, to watch singing whitethroats – some of the group heard lesser whitethroat and bird song was full on with singing wren, blackcap, robin, dunnock, blackbird and chiffchaff. But, as last year, the nightingales must have seen us coming and decided to stop singing. And they refused to start up again (probably until we had gone!). However we did hear a cuckoo calling and for most of the group this was the first of the year. Let’s hope that cuckoos have a good breeding season this year.
Again, as last year, Trevor found an adder basking in the sun. Everyone (that wanted to!) was able to get up close and personal but we left it completely undisturbed. There is some evidence that adders are in decline and Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC) are running a project called Add an Adder
We had spent most of our time this morning looking out for incoming migrants (some of the group also saw swallows) – but at this time of year some species of bird, having been with us all winter, are also getting ready to leave, while other species are just passing through as they fly north.
The Medway estuary is a great place to watch this happening and it is an internationally important site for these migrating birds. Brent geese could still be seen feeding on the edge of the tide but they will all be gone any day soon.
But what about the Black-tailed godwits that we could now see feeding on the mud in their rusty red breeding plumage? Have they been with us all winter feeding in the Medway and Swale? And where are they going? Perhaps to the Netherlands or Iceland? Or perhaps they are “our” birds hoping to nest on the Ouse Washes.
The Black-tailed godwit is a “Back from the Brink” species and its movements have also been the subject of ringing studies. We couldn’t see any ringed birds today but last week a few on us were at Oare Marshes on the Swale and Terry took pictures of ringed Black-tailed godwits. I am not sure myself (Sue will know), but I think the bird with leg rings “red over black over green” is an old friend of ours that we have been watching at Oare for some years now. But I can’t remember where it breeds.
So we missed the nightingale, but added an adder, and just caught a cuckoo. Thanks to everyone for coming along. Thanks to Sally, Alan and Terry for the photographs. And special thanks to Trevor for finding the adder.