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Birdwatcher’s Diary No.253

Published on: 24 Apr, 2022
Updated on: 24 Apr, 2022

By Malcolm Fincham

April started on a rather cool theme temperatures were remaining below our seasonal norm throughout southern counties of the UK.

Single figure temperatures, sunny periods and even a few overnight frosts showed a similar likeness to how the previous few springs had begun. Any signs of global warming, apart from an unseasonally dry start to the month, certainly didn’t appear to be affecting southern regions of the UK?

Little ringed plover at Tice’s Meadow.

A return visit to Tice’s Meadow in Tongham on April 2 gave me the opportunity to see three little ringed plovers, which had recently arrived. They are one of the first of the true summer visitors I most often get to see.

Very little in the way of hirundines were being reported during the first week or so of April. This, as last year, was becoming of increased concern to me.

Egyptian goose at Tice’s Meadow.

Exotic in name although resident by nature, Egyptian geese are continuing to increase in numbers throughout southern counties of the UK, with several pairs breeding locally.

First sedge warbler of the year at the Riverside Nature Reserve.

At the Riverside Nature Reserve, near Burpham I was able to locate and photograph my first summer visiting sedge warbler of the year.

This was on April 3. It could be viewed at the same location I saw and photographed my first one, last year. Having been first reported just the previous day, it could already be heard in song across the river as it skulked among the brambles on the opposite bank.

Small tortoiseshell butterfly.

Butterflies remained thin on the ground with no additions to my sightings this year during the first week of the month. However, small tortoiseshells were the most common of those sighted.

It wasn’t until the second week of the month that things started to liven up a little.

Blackcap singing.

A few blackcaps could now be regularly heard singing and competing with the still singing chiffchaffs.

Dunnock.

Dunnocks were some of the most vocal of the birds that could now be heard on my local walks.

Wren.

And every so often a wren would perch up in the undergrowth, stick its tail into the air, and sing a rendition (or wren-dition) of its call.

Mallard with chicks on River Wey beside the Riverside Nature Reserve.

My first sighting of a group of 13 mallard duck chicks were also present, drifting loosely along the river with their mum trying not too successfully to keep them in a contained group.

Swallows.

On April 8 I saw my first swallows of the year. Five could be viewed at the sewage works by Stoke Lock.

Reed bunting.

A few reed buntings in summer plumage had made their return to the boardwalk area.

Mallard with its brood on Britten’s Pond.

By April 10 three broods of mallard chicks could be seen on Britten’s Pond.

Grey herons at Britten’s Pond.

Grey herons could occasionally be viewed, perched up among the fresh green leaves of the weeping willows on the islands there.

Grey wagtail fly catching at Britten’s Pond.

Grey wagtails flitted to and fro in their undulated flight, island hopping.

Cormorant at Britten’s Pond.

Despite all attempts to ward them off with glistening props, cormorants continued to fish the waters.

Kingfisher.

Always a welcome visitor to my eyes was the occasional sighting of a kingfisher.

Blue tits nesting high up in an oak tree.

On the far bank of the pond a pair of blue tits could be seen visiting a hole high up in an oak tree.

Female blackcap at Britten’s Pond.

Several male blackcaps were now singing their heart’s out, while the females could often be heard making their ‘ticking’ sounds. Occasionally glimpsed among the brambles.

Reed buntings at Britten’s Pond.

For the first time in recent years I was able to pick out and photo a pair of reed buntings at the pond.

Nuthatch.

Nuthatches continued to be vocal, especially among the trees that lined the railway embankment.

Carp breaching the surface at Britten’s Pond.

A few carp could occasionally be seen breaching the water. These would always set me a personal challenge in my attempts to photograph one.

Red kite.

Red kites continued to be a common sight as they glided gracefully overhead.

Common buzzard at the Riverside Nature Reserve.

While a pair of common buzzards could often be viewed from any one of the chosen benches on the circular walk around the pond.

Common whitethroat.

By the second week of the month a few summer visiting common whitethroats had at long last made an appearance on local heathlands.

Slow worms.

A few reptiles had begun to awaken. Even seeing my first slow worms of the year.

Dartford warbler.

While Surrey’s Dartford warblers appeared to be in good health, and in good numbers.

By the second week of April concerns and speculation were progressively growing of the whereabouts of “King Colin” the infamous cuckoo. And whether indeed he would complete another year of its epic returns from another winter in Africa.

Less than 10 years is thought to be the average lifespan of a UK visiting common cuckoo. And with Colin now in at least his eighth year, speculations were surmounting.

He had arrived back at the “parish field” on Thursley Common on April 4 last year, so concerns were increasing with each passing day.

In true showman style, however, on April 14 he had once again returned to let his presence be known, dipping a wing as he flew past. If he had been wearing a cap, I’m sure he would have ‘doffed’ it.

Juvenile cuckoo pictured on Thursley Common in August 2013.

Having followed his fame since its infancy, and although highly controversial, I did wonder if the photo I took of a juvenile cuckoo in August 2013 could have been a very young Colin?

Undoubtedly one for the “fact-checkers” to dismiss!

The amazing Thursley cuckoo.

Most incredible to me, and undisputed in their facts are the amazing wonders of nature. How a young cuckoo, not even aware of its parentage, can instinctively know where to migrate to during its winter. And know exactly where to return and all without a sat-nav.

The doors to summer had well and truly opened by April 15 weather-wise, as sunny periods and dry days continued with temperatures reaching a seasonal norm of around 20c.

A few more species of butterflies were adding to my year’s sightings.

Holly blue butterfly.

Having unsuccessfully chased numerous holy blue butterflies about during the past week, I finally pinned one down to photograph.

Orange-tip butterfly, male, Riverside Nature Reserve.

Orange tip butterflies were now commonly sighted at the Riverside Nature Reserve, especially in areas where one of their favoured food plants, the cuckoo flower, grows.

Green-veined white butterfly.

Another butterfly species to add to my sightings this year, were a good number of green-veined whites.

Comma butterfly.

While worthy of another entry into this year’s photos was a comma. Some now in pristine condition.

Song thrush.

Resident birds had stolen an advantage on the new arrivals, some still yet to arrive. Song thrushes could already be seen collecting food for their young.

Robin.

Robins, at numerous locations, could be seen carrying food in their beaks.

Blue tit collecting nesting material.

While blue tits could be photographed collecting nesting materials.

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