Tuesday 10 May 2022

Thirty Years Ago - April 1992

5th April:

A quick look at Dagenham Chase produced a pair of displaying Little Ringed Plovers while a quick look at the barges at Rainham provided me with a late Water Pipit and one of the breeding Stonechats.

8th April:

Panic Time! A Caspian Tern had spent all of yesterday at Lackford Lakes – amazingly their fourth record in six years and so this became the first port of call for Pete and I and as usual it was not present. A quick look around gave us just aa pair of Little Ringed Plovers so we headed up to Weeting Heath via Foxhole Heath where only two pair of Common and no Stone-Curlews were found. We had no such trouble at Weeting with three seen easily on the other side of the road. Green Woodpeckers were vocal and a surprise female Merlin whizzed through.

Mayday Farm next and as there was no one else around the wildlife was a little more obliging than usual. Golden Pheasants were croaking in the Moonberry understorey and a pair of exquisite Muntjac fed amongst the newly planted deciduous trees. Whilst watching these three doe Red Deer stepped silently across the path – wonderful.

A little further up we found the Woodlarks singing opposite the huge wood chip pile and got good views as they sang both in flight and from a stump. Suddenly everything went quiet except for the alarm calls of Blue and Coal Tits. I looked up to see a pair of Sparrowhawks spiralling around but they too looked uneasy and the reason soon became obvious as a male Goshawk glided out of the tree tops about 100 feet away and started to climb.  The female appeared soon after a little further away and once both birds were out of sight the Woodlarks restarted and were joined by Skylarks and many singing Finches. A third Sparrowhawk tussled with a Kestrel over the tree line and a Chiffchaff sang.  The walk back produced no additional birds but there were now 14 glowing Brimstones on the wing.

We made our way back to Lackford where nothing had changed and I spent the afternoon chatting to Paul Whiteman about butterflies amongst other things and managed to see a pair of Goshawk and Sparrowhawks over the Kings Forest. A pair of Ringed Plovers had joined the LRPs on the scrape and Kingfishers dazzled but the best was a pink flushed full sum plum Little Gull.

We stayed quite late and then came home via Pete’s daughters – what a mad house! [Eds: sorry Pete!] and once home I got a call from Ken to say that a Stone Curlew had flown through The Chase! As it was a nice evening Dad and I went for a walk and at last managed to see the Short-eared Owl as it sat disguised by a plastic bag! Twelve Sand Martins were my first Chase birds of the year.

9th April:

A late morning dash with Stuart Lambert to Pulborough did not give a Night Heron so we pushed on to Lychett Bay on the north side of Poole Harbour. We thought we had found the right spot for the Purple Heron but no one else was around but thankfully it eventually strolled into view across a boggy field and into a sedge filled ditch. A smart immature – probably a first summer with a huge bill and very sinuous neck. 

Purple Heron

A Spotted Redshank was calling and three Buzzard circled over the adjacent wood and four Roe Deer were feeding in the fields too.

We then moved around to Studland where the Hoopoe had disappeared but we did get a pair of spritely Dartford Warblers and Green Woodpeckers. Brent Geese, Wigeon, Pintail and many Waders and Gulls fed out on the marsh and Sandwich Tern and Willow Warbler found their way onto the year list before heading for home.

10th April:

Two lunchtime phonecalls (from Stu and Paul W) had me jumping into EMU and dashing in a legal manner [Eds: EMU was an old K reg Morris Marina so…] back up the M11 to Lackford. Fortunately the bane of last summer decided to stay and allow me to enjoy it. The Caspian Tern felt a bit bigger than a Common Gull and not Herring Gull sized as I had been led to believe but it was very majestic in flight with slow leisurely beats before epic plunge dives.

Caspian Tern - bill too small! #378

A Green Sandpiper, a few Redshanks and a couple of Sand Martins made it a pleasant afternoon out and at 5.15pm it flew off once again and so I retraced my steps with a smile.

11th April: 

I headed north again today with Pete to see the immature Crane at Welches Dam.  Fortunately it was still there but at long range and in bad haze and was my first away from the Broads. A nice party of Tree Sparrows were more watchable and a male Yellow wagtail added a touch of spring. Pintail were still present and some Ruff were feeding close to the hide where Toads were busily croaking.

The Caspian Tern was back at Lackford and so we headed that way and naturally it stayed put given the effort I put in yesterday. And so as we watched the Tern we were also treated to over 50 summer plumaged Little Gulls passing through in the five hours we were there. Amongst these beauties was my first Common Terns of the year. The same waders were still present and there were Willow Warblers and Blackcaps in song.  There were plenty of butterflies and a fine Grass Snake and two obliging Water Voles.

Little Gulls

12th April:

A quick pop over to The Chase to look for Mick’s male Redstart was successful and I found a female too by Crowfoot marsh. These were my first spring records for the site. A few Willow Warblers and Blackcaps were in song but there was no sign of Mick’s Egyptian Goose or Dunlin – both excellent local birds.


17th April:

Frensham Little Pond was the first stop for Pete and I and the male Little Bunting was found immediately singing just beyond the car park. It was bit like a mixture of Bunting, Dunnock and Whitethroat to my ear. Three male Woodlarks sang around us and amongst the many finches were 12 Bramblings, Siskins and a male Greenfinch with creamy white wings.

Little Bunting 

After the rain left off we went for a walk up to the Kings Ridge seeing Green Woodpeckers, Blackcaps and a Water Rail (!) en route. Once there the Dartford Warblers were conspicuously singing as were Stonechats and a single Tree Pipit. One of the Dartfords was displaying not unlike a Sedge Warbler. When we got back the Bunting was becoming difficult so we headed north to Cleygate Common where Ring Ouzels had been seen the day before. After a spot of lunch we wandered over this bleak firing range and found four Ouzels although only a female showed well. Woodlarks and Tree Pipits were singing all around and four male Wheatears were all exceptionally bright. Two Crossbills flew over and Siskins were ever present and as we walked back we discovered to Adders in the heather only moments after telling Pete to watch where he put his feet.

18th April:

A typically early start saw us myself Stu and Aubrey at Exminster at about 8am and fortunately the Hoopoe was found upon our arrival. Really good views were ad as it fed alongside the railway line crossing Bowling Green Marsh. It was being pushed by two photographers [Eds: see it is not a new thing] and kept raising its crest as they approached.


A few Swallows were twittering about before we moved off to Prawle Point with a Cetti’s Warbler fest at Slapton Ley on the way. I got out and walked the last half mile to the car park locating three singing male Cirl Buntings on the way down. Once on the coast proper we found another three pairs. Tree Pipits, Swallows and Linnets were on the move while the sea produced four more year ticks in as many minutes with Guillemot, Puffin, Razorbill and Manx Shearwater as well as Gannets, Fulmars, Kittiwakes and a single Whimbrel.

A little further west to the River Plym for a prospective look through the gulls as there had been two Bonaparte’s Gulls here much earlier in the winter. Stewart stayed in the car and Aubrey and I went and scanned the river banks but we found nothing until the return walk when a 1st winter Ring-billed Gull made a couple of fly-bys and then I had tantalising views of what I thought was an adult Bony. For once, I actually managed to refind it and glean all the requisite details.  What a delightful little gull.  Stewart was non-plussed and never even got out of the car.

Bonaparte’s Gull

Aylesbere Common was out last stop and on the way home and at least five Dartford Warblers were discovered and shoed very well with the Stonechats. A Cuckoo was a welcome addition.

The journey home was enlivened but many Buzzards, a couple of House Martins and Turtle Doves and some every loud Led Zep!  The trip pushed my year list over the 200 mark at last!

19th April:

A trip to Connaught Water was dominated by a woodland full of Blackcaps, Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and various Tits while the lake itself was quiet with only a surprise Sedge Warbler in song. After a cup of coffee and a couple of bits of toast [Eds: no idea where the toast came from as I do not remember Pete having a toaster in the car!] Pete and I headed over to Amwell where there were quite a few mixed hirundines hawking around. Both Little and Common Ringed Plovers were displaying as were several pairs of Redshanks. A surprise year tick was a very territorial Egyptian Goose [Eds: still a very scarce locals bird then]. On to RSPB Rye Meads for lunch and Cetti’s Warblers and both were quickly acquired.  Our final stop was Hall Marsh were breeding Blackcaps and Willow Warblers lined the walk down to the scrape where both Ringed Plovers, Lapwings and Redshanks were all breeding and a single Snipe, Teal, Shoveler and a Grey Wagtail were all also seen.

20th April:

A day in Norfolk with Pete and after the Fulmars (and an Eider) at Hunstanton we soon arrived at RSPB Titchwell. Bearded Tit joined the year list almost immediately and a summer plumaged Black-necked Grebe was a great find and one I was not expecting.  There were very few waders but closer inspection of the Black-headed Gulls proved worthwhile with a pair of newly arrived adult Meds and three sum plum Little Gulls which were hawking delicately over the scrape.

Black-necked Grebe

There were still a few Brents around and a pair of Pintail dabbled in the shallows while two pair of Red-breasted Mergansers were also on the fresh marsh.

The Marsh Harriers were very active with two males and a female seen and one of the males even perched up for quite a while and afforded excellent views. A couple of Sedge Warblers were scratching away and White and Pied Wagtails were seen from the path while the car park was full of expected warbler song. On to Cley where we spent the next hour waiting for food in Coastguards! Shocking!

Marsh Harrier

During this time Pete and Ted [Ed: I can remember his glasses being about an inch thick!] decided to head for home leaving me to make my way to my parents caravan hopefully at the top of Old Womans Lane in Cley!

I met Paul W after my long awaited beans on toast and we circumnavigated the whole reserve picking up Sandwich Terns, two Spotted Redshanks, 53 Avocets, 113 Black-tailed Godwits, Little Ringed Plover and Common Sandpiper on the pools and Tree Pipit, alba and Yellow Wagtails and a couple of Sedge Warblers around the edges before Paul kindly dropped me off at the van.

21st April: 

A day visiting the local market towns was briefly enlivened by a short walk along the River Bure. A Cuckoo was calling and there were several pairs of all three feral geese and a few Swallows twittered overhead. Later I the evening we went down to Cley and heard at least four Grasshopper Warblers reeling and one showed exceptionally well.  I imagined that I could hear the crunchy footsteps of Bitterns in the reedbeds.

Grasshopper Warbler

22nd April:

I persuaded Dad to go to Bacton on the morning to look for Dotterel. Fortunately all five were still in the huge rolling furrowed field.  There were plenty of birds heading north including Linnets, hirundines, Meadow Pipits, ten Tree Pipits and seven close Shorelarks that were an unexpected bonus.


Later on as we headed back past Salthouse we stopped to watch 12 Whimbrel in the fields. Paul was there too and told me of a pair of Garganey at The Quags so I hitched a lift.  We were in luck and actually found two pair and the two males even engaged in some display! A Greenshank was also on the pools and a Short-eared Owl hunted the fields.

Just as we were leaving, Mark Golley turned up and we stopped to tell him of the ducks which was fortuitous as a Crane flew through at that point and although we were close it was into the light and we could not age it.

Back at Dotterela gathering of six Ring Ouzels were to seen feeding I the sheep field by the church on the company of Song and Mistle Thrushes, Blackbirds and a solitary Redwing. I headed ‘home’ for sinner before another late evening Gropper session down at Cley and hundreds of newly arrived hirundines circled in the gloom.

23rd April:

There was no sign of the Ouzels this morning as we packed up and headed for home although the Garganey were seen again at Kelling and the Whimbrel flock was now up to 25.


25th April:

A really good few hours over The Chase over two visits produced a Cuckoo, my third Redstart of the spring, my first Wheatear and a year tick (the first of tree that day!) in the form of a bubbling Garden Warbler. But the second, evening, visit was more hurried as Mick had found a male Pied Flycatcher by the Slack. Amazingly it was still there and I had it to myself as this dapper bird flitted around the Sallows. Two male Lesser Whitethroats were also new in and Blackcaps had jumped to 13 males while there were now 60 House Martin, 20 Sand Martin and six Swallows.

Pied Flycatcher 

26th April:

An afternoon visit to Abberton Reservoir work out some bird race details proved pretty good despite the awful weather with Black Terns, Nightingales, the first Swifts and a smart drake Garganey right next to the causeway.

27th April:

An eventful morning attempting to see the Pied Billed Grebe at Radley GP in Oxfordshire.  My car first broke down outside James H’s and then again at Waltham Abbey as we came off the M25! Fortunately Peter G reappeared after passing us on the M25 and stayed with us until Dad arrived to sort the car out. We then transferred to Pete’s Citroen and on we went. Much to our relief it was still there and paddling around in the rain looked very dejected. Suddenly the heavens opened and we ran for cover but when it abated there was no sign of the Grebe at all and despite searching all we could find were a Cuckoo, a Cetti’s Warbler and my first Whitethroat of the year.

With that we headed for home via a non-existent Hoopoe on Christmas Common which is where they have been secretly releasing the Red Kites.

Pied Billed Grebe - David Rimes - #379




No comments:

Post a Comment