Monday, 2 May 2022

#LocalBigYear - April

April is a busy month for birds, with lots of coming and going, and predictably the year list grew a bit. By the end of the month my tally stood at 142, with a fabulous Hoopoe at West Bexington the stand-out highlight...

Cherry on the April cake

Of the more regular (but not guaranteed) spring migrants, the West Bex Ring Ouzel provided a sweet moment. And Redstarts have been kind. Of the [probably] six I've seen, only one was a male though. Normally I would be saying at this point how a male Redstart is just about the smartest bird you can reasonably expect to encounter in spring. And that's true, unless it can't be bothered to dress properly...

Male Redstart at Cogden on 28th.

Presumably a 1st-summer bird, a blackish chin is about all he could manage.

Other migrants which have been seen (or heard) locally include Whinchat, Grasshopper Warbler, Garden Warbler (I think?) and Pied Flycatcher, but all have avoided me so far. To be honest, out of that lot I would only expect Whinchat to be more-or-less guaranteed in spring; the others - especially Pied Fly - not so much.

Cuckoo is another April highlight. There have been two. One (on 23rd) has already featured in THIS post, but there was another - also at Cogden, and found by Mike and Alan - on 28th. I heard it briefly, then was dead fortunate to get a flight view. It was very distant, but...

Cuckoo dot.

Although I realise that no one for a second doubts my integrity, and that the above photo is unequivocal proof of the existence of a flying Cuckoo that day, ju-u-u-u-st in case...

There we go. Clincher.

Apart from the extravaganza of 11th, seawatching has been so-so or worse. Often, a lot worse. And the imminent future isn't looking great either. Unless the weather does something interesting soon, Pom Skua might be tricky.

Nocmig has been fun as always. Another Avocet, on 14th, was an unexpected pleasure. In fact waders are my favourite thing about nocmig and, as the month progressed, each day has seen me increasingly eager to analyse the previous night's recording. Why? Well, for one thing I expect more waders as the spring advances. But the main reason is Stone-curlew. Having recorded two now, in consecutive years, late April has assumed an inflated significance that it does not deserve. My daft, unrealistic optimism is responsible for that, but a Stone-curlew-less month has finally let some of the air out.

However, this disappointment has been mitigated by three records of Bar-tailed Godwit, my first in spring and presumably a result of late April's north-easterlies. It is well known that spring Barwits frequently migrate in large flocks, and one of my recordings demonstrates that fact quite amazingly. Apart from their 'kek' notes, Barwits also make a harsh, chattering sound, evident in the following recording. Although the flock is not close, I cannot help wondering exactly how big it is. Definitely a lot of birds...

Meanwhile, down below in Bridport, everyone is oblivious to the flock of super-smart, migrating waders piling overhead en route to the Arctic somewhere. For some reason I find this aspect of the event utterly compelling.

More has happened in April than I can do justice to in a single post, so I'll close with a couple of random pics...

The West Bay Purple Sandpiper on 28th. The first time I've seen it since January. Seriously elusive!

And of course, a Wheatear. West Bay again, on 27th.

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