Fringe Box



Birdwatcher’s Diary No.207

Published on: 10 May, 2020
Updated on: 10 May, 2020

By Malcolm Fincham

As the April sun continued to shine I continued to make the most of my daily exercise allowance as the Covid-19 lockdown continued.

The second half of the month turned out to be even more inspiring than the first. This, in spite of not being able to travel any distance other than local. Even managing to add a few more species to my sightings this year.

Storm clouds disappearing.

Although having our first rainfall in four weeks on April 17, high pressure soon prevailed and sunshine made its return.

Swallows in flight.

Swallows were now returning from Africa in good number and a dozen or so could be seen feeding over Stoke Lake.

male blackcap singing.

Blackcaps were the most vocal of the birds around the Riverside Nature Reserve. The males making all the song.

Female blackcap.

While the quieter female were occasionally seen making their ticking sounds, in response.

Male reed bunting.

Male reed buntings could seen in their full summer plumage, occasionally perched out in the open, calling in hope of attracting a mate.

Female reed bunting.

While the females, without black heads, flitted in sallows by the lakeside.

Little egret at the Riverside Nature Reserve.

On April 18 a little egret passed over the reserve, heading in a southerly direction.

Reed warbler.

While, by the second half of the month, the first reed warblers had arrived back from Africa, and a few could be heard singing at the lakeside.

Common whitethroat.

The common whitethroats that had arrived during the first half of the month were now very vocal and far easier to pick out at both reserves.

They had even begun to out-compete the blackcaps in song in areas I visited.

Common whitethoat in flight.

With some patience I managed a sequence of shots as one sang, fly-catching above a clump of brambles.

Sedge warbler at the Riverside Nature Reserve.

Sedge warblers had also become more brazen, showing well and incessantly singing.

Garden warbler.

As last year, it was the reserve where I was able to connect with my first garden warbler of the year.

Lesser whitethroat.

Also, as last year, I was able to tune in to the song of a lesser whitethroat.


While it was accompanied on backing vocals by several greenfinches, wheezing from some nearby bushes.

On April 23, while visiting the Riverside Nature Reserve, I noted a group of gulls glistening pure white in the glorious blue morning sky.

“Mediterranean gulls, surely?”, I muttered to myself, now reluctantly admitting I was beginning to miss the company of my companions, Bob and Dougal.

Mediterranean gulls.

My thoughts were confirmed when a similar report was received that a group of 30 or so had been seen drifting my way from Papercourt water meadows, near Send.

On Stoke Lake a pair of great-crested grebes could be seen, doing their ritual mating dance.

Tufted duck on Stoke Lake.

Tufted ducks had dwindled in number, just a couple of pair remained by the last days of April. Most had now flown to more northerly breeding grounds.

Brimstone butterfly.

Among the selection of butterflies that could be seen on the wing, locally including brimstones as well as comma butterflies.

Speckled wood butterfly.

A few speckled wood butterflies had now started to emerge.

Small copper butterfly.

Small copper butterflies could also be found.

Holly blue butterfly.

Holly blue butterflies had become more abundant, even catching a photo of one with its wings open, absorbing the warmth of the sun’s rays.

Egyptian geese, still with five goslings.

Surprisingly, the Egyptian geese I showed near Stoke Lock in my previous report still had their brood of five goslings. They had grown substantially in such a short space of time, too!


A kestrel, presently raising young, could be seen from time to time hunting around the reserve.

Whitmoor Common.

On Whitmoor Common I was fortunate to see my second wheatear of the year on its journey north.


These later arrivals are thought to be the Greenland breeding ones, slightly more robust and hardier looking than our northern, UK breeding ones.

Skylark on Whitmoor Common.

A surprise sighting on Whitmoor was a skylark – the first I had seen there in over 45 years!

My most impressive encounter to date with a red kite was on April 23. A bird I wouldn’t in my wildest dreams have imagined seeing locally only a few years ago.

And certainly not at such an incredibly close encounter as I had on this particular occasion. It had landed out of sight in some thick heather, not far away beside the path I was walking.

Close encounter with a red kite on Whitmoor Common.

On regaining flight, and to my surprise, it appeared to be heading straight towards me.

Red kite – close up.

Gliding in flight, not much more than head height, it then rose up to about 20 feet, without a single wingbeat.

Red kite fills the viewfinder of my camera.

Circling me as if in recognition, I attempted a series of snapshots having to “zoom-out” to fit it into the camera’s view finder.

Common buzzard.

Common buzzards continued to be photogenic locally throughout the month, although remaining a little shyer of my attention to them.

Dartford warbler in flight.

Dartford warblers continued showing well on occasions, and like the common whitethroats, could sometimes be observed 20 or so feet into the air, then submerging back into the thickets of gorse.

Male linnet.

Many of the male linnets now seen were wearing their summer plumage of bright pinky-red bibs.

Female linnet collecting nesting material.

And the females could be seen collecting nesting material.

Meadow pipit on Whitmoor Common.

A few meadow pipits could be seen on Whitmoor, best viewed perched up on the electric cables that run across the common.

Despite a few wet days towards the end of the month, April turned out to be the sunniest on record in southern parts of the UK.

Common tern.

I was also able to add a few pictures of a common tern, to add to this year’s sightings.

Common tern takes a dive.

Although none had been using the tern raft on Stoke Lake, where a pair of mallard ducks had taken up temporary residence.

Common sandpiper.

As well as a few in-flight photos of a common sandpiper to add to this year’s sightings, before the month was out.

Jay at the Riverside Nature Reserve.

While jays seemed to continue to attract my attention, both on Whitmoor and at the Riverside Nature Reserve.

Swifts make a return.

However, I had to wait until April 29 to see locally breeding pairs of swifts flying over my garden.

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Responses to Birdwatcher’s Diary No.207

  1. Annelize Kidd Reply

    May 12, 2020 at 12:13 am

    Thanks to Malcolm Fincham for his very informative local bird/wildlife article and splendid photographs. I am glad to know the names of the large brown ‘ducks’ we saw at Riverside Lake: a pair of great-crested grebes!

    I look forward to your next output.

  2. Andrew Kittow Reply

    May 18, 2020 at 7:16 pm

    Excellent photos Malcolm. I enjoyed every one and have seen most of your sightings also.

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