|The male Bearded Tit in the reeds on Water Colour Lagoon 1 on Good Friday|
Spring migration has been slow to get going this year, after northerly winds courtesy of the jet stream and high pressure over the country acting as a red light stop sign for passerines and hirundines alike.
The wind has changed now direction and, as a result, the red light has turned to green.
Holmethorpe had been relatively quiet during the past couple of weeks. The first-winter female Scaup had been happily swimming around Mercers Lake with her Tufted Duck pals, a drake Shelduck was waiting patiently for a mate to turn up on Spynes Mere, and Little Egret have become an ever-increasing fixture on the patch.
|The long-staying female Scaup on Mercers Lake|
|Male Shelduck on Spynes Mere|
I'd ummed and arred over whether I could really justify skiving off working on a horseracing magazine with a deadline beckoning to pop out in the late afternoon for a quick walk around the patch.
In the end I took the sensible option and decided against it. Work won.
And then at about 6.45pm, when the sun had already set, a tweet on Twitter nearly had me choking on a mug of tea.
There had also been a third bearded tit. Me.
I didn't know how long it had been since Holmethorpe's last Bearded Tit sighting but I imagined it had been a few years ago. I later discovered the last sightings of the species were a pair on December 7, 1972. With a near 40-year gap, a Bearded Tit was a patch mega.
Dudley Cox, the birder who discovered these fantastic birds, lucked in when a couple of non-birders walking along the causeway in the late afternoon between the two Water Colour Lagoons asked him what the two pretty-looking birds were...
By the time I'd heard the news it was too late to get out and so I had to wait, along with regular patch watchers Gordon Hay and Ray Baker, for sunrise the next morning. No wonder Gordon said the next morning he didn't get any sleep that night...
|The female Bearded Tit on Water Colour lagoons on Wednesday|
|The birds tended to stay down low as they |
darted around the reedbed
It got better.
Gordon had to shoot off to work while Ray headed for the Moors, where he found a Mandarin duck. I stuck around the lagoons in search of hirundines. Three Little Egret flew over the flooded area at the back of WC1 (Water Colour Lagoon 1) as Ray returned to view the Bearded Tits.
While we were trying to take photos of these hyperactive birds I heard a wader calling overhead. Above us circling the lagoons was an Avocet. It looked as though it wanted to find a spot to land and, sure enough, it dropped in on the small muddy island appearing on WC2. What a morning this was turning out to be! This was the first Avocet I had seen here for a while, having missed a couple of sightings in recent years.
|An Avocet flew over the Water Colour Lagoons...|
|...circling looking for a landing site|
|On the deck. The Avocet landed on the recently emerging |
island on Water Colour Lagoon 2
|It didn't stay for long but an excellent spring sighting|
The male Bearded Tit was seen preening and feeding the female at lunchtime. A promising development.
It got better.
It had only been a few days earlier I chatted to Gordon about the bird he most wanted to see on the patch. I was expecting something like a rare wader or warbler, but instantly he said: "A Merlin. It would be a first for here."
In the 30 years or more Gordon Hay has been birding the area he has never seen a Merlin on the patch, and nor has anyone else.
The following morning I got woken up at 6.00am by a phone all from Gordon. A female Merlin was hawking the Moors! Both he and Ray had great views of this little raptor from the Water Colour mound. What a treat that must have been. I'm so pleased for Gordon – a well-deserved first for Holmethorpe.
Added to the list were two Brent Goose that landed on the island on WC2 before flying off with a handful of Greylag Goose.
When I arrived an hour later the Beardies were still flitting around the reeds. Eight Sand Martin went through. My first of the year. The female Scaup (remember her!) had moved to WC1 for the day, along with a female Shelduck feeding on the lagoon, before it flew towards Spynes Mere to join the drake. I went for a brief walk around the north of the patch. A few Chiffchaff were singing, and a pair of Little Owl showed well from an oak south of Spynes Mere.
Another good day.
This morning I went out again before heading off to work and had my best views of the Bearded Tit. The male climbed higher in the reeds as the sun warmed the air. Two Sand Martin flew over the lagoons. Gordon, Ray and Ian Kehl also discovered a White Wagtail at Spynes Mere.
|The Beardies only came up high from the base of the reeds |
when the sun came out