So that was March

So that was March – spring has not yet fully sprung.

I sat by the side of the road in County Durham, and there were displaying waders everywhere – drumming Snipe, tumbling Lapwing, a distant Golden Plover, yelping Redshank and even the occasional bubbling Curlew but the three Blackcock at the lek were just mooching around. No rooo-koooing display. No facing up to each other and inflating those wattles. Not much sign of spring in the Tetrao tetrix that I saw.

It was raining at Labrador Bay RSPB nature reserve, and blowing a bit of a gale. There was a distant snatch of song which sounded promising and then the small (whisper it – rather dull!) bird with white outer tail feathers and a black mask and throat appeared on the hedge edge. I haven’t seen a Cirl Bunting for quite a while – but this was one.  A male. It looked hunched, cold and wet – and if it thought the same about me, it wasn’t far wrong.

The walk down the Otter from Otterton Mill was a good way to walk off an excellent cheese scone. Just the one Otter (the river) and no Beavers or Dippers.  The riverside trees were still very bare yet there were half a dozen Chiffchaffs in the stretch down to the metal bridge over the river. It felt like the Chiffchaffs had peaked too soon, or maybe their confidence in the coming spring was built on the firm foundation that thousands of generations of singing Chiffchaffs had got it right in the past.

Are Penduline Tits a sign of spring? Not for me they aren’t as these were the first I’d seen in the UK. They were greyer and slightly smaller than I remembered them from France and Spain, but they were tugging on the reedmace just like they should,. We were lucky to find them as all we saw on our first visit was Nick Baker who had clearly scared them away, but a post-scone return visit secured these long-staying visitors to the RSPB Darts Farm site.

The next morning I caught up with Sand Martins at Bowling Green Marsh, and more Chiffchaffs and a Blackcap. It didn’t look like spring but the birds are telling me it is very early spring. An exciting time of year as it promises so much.

DSCN8288 Penduline Tit Darts Farm
Photo: Roderick Leslie



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2 Replies to “So that was March”

  1. I haven't seen a single mention of "phenology" this year. Whereas in 2014 the woods were carpeted with it.

  2. The Black Grouse were lekking here in North Yorkshire three weeks ago when my brother and I went to see them. We OK two were and the rest were just mooching around in fields.
    Its a long time since I saw Cirl Bunting (1982) and as for Penduline Tit, Poland 2002. Do I detect a little twitching Mark?


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