Bird Report - April 2016

Well, April has been a cold month on the whole but still rewarding as regards bird sightings. Perhaps the cooler weather has brought some of the rarer birds to our bird tables. This has certainly been true at Sunnybank where we have been treated to visits from Chaffinch (male and female), gorgeous Brambling (1 male, 2 females) 3 Goldfinches (a striking bird if ever there was one). We had a Chiffchaff calling from the trees in our small plantation - very difficult to get this one wrong as its call describes its name, ie: chiff-chaff, chiff-chaff, etc. In the front field I was surprised to see a Redwing which appeared to be travelling with a male Blackbird. Another nice sighting, this time from the sofa, as I watched a Short-eared Owl fly across the back garden. I regularly throw out food for the birds but some of the bigger items attract gulls, however, it was nice to get a close-up view of a Black-headed Gull in its smart summer plumage as it searched for leavings on the lawn.

Of course, the birds are busy nesting now - our Starling nest boxes are already occupied; we have a Blackbird on four eggs in the greenhouse - a very precarious situation in my opinion - and a Wren nest has been built in the byre and is waiting to be shown to a female by the industrious builder! I must say, there seem to be plenty of Wrens around this year as I seem to hear them just about everywhere. Listen out for their call - so loud for such a tiny bird.

Another breed we regularly see each year are a pair of Oystercatchers which take up residence in our fields. Last year they appeared with a youngster so I hope they are successful this year also.

I hope other parishioners have enjoyed some of these treats also as there are the birds around if we keep our eyes peeled.

Birds to watch out for now include Meadow Pipits, Wheatears, Pied Wagtails.

Early in April I was on my way to the Gloup when I spotted 300 Pink-footed Geese grazing in a nearby field. Smaller than the Greylags and with a distinctive brown neck and smaller, duller beak these birds are quite easy to pick out. They also have a higher-pitched call. I would imagine these birds will now be on their way back to their breeding grounds.

While walking my neighbours' dogs around the square that includes Newark Bay there were a few birds to be noted, including 3 Snipe, 3 Wheatears, 1 Lapwing calling and displaying over a ploughed field up the Geo Road, 1 Meadow Pipit collecting nesting material up the Geo Road. Anyone visiting Newark Bay just now would almost certainly spot a Wheatear which are unmistakeable due to their white rump which is visible when they fly off. One was also flitting around at Little Halley at the end of the month, so plenty about.

With the cold weather this month I despaired of ever seeing a Swallow for my report so I was delighted to see three at the Geo on April 29th - summer can't be far away then?

During my beached birds walk at Newark I noticed 3 Wheatears, while 30 Oystercatchers were calling noisily from the beach. I saw my first Pied Wagtail of the season and a few Rock Pipits were searching among the seaweed.

At Sandside Bay beached birds walk I could see the Seals relaxing on the skerry during this very low tide. Another Pied Wagtail was on the beach, while, in the sea, an Eider Male was having a solitary swim. My favourite bird this day was my first Arctic Tern diving for food - I hope these birds have a more successful breeding year in 2016.

One of our regular bird-watchers, Ian Cunningham was in Deerness a couple of times during April and reports the following:

There was a Redwing at East Denwick, 3 Goldcrests and a Sparrowhawk at Sandside Bay bushes.  On the shoreline there 45 Turnstones, 12 Purple sandpipers and 6 Ringed Plovers.

c450 Golden Plovers and 85 Knot at St Peter's Pool, pair of Stonechats at Gloup visitor centre, 2 Short-eared Owls near Keigar.

I am pleased to read about the Stonechats at the Gloup visitor centre as I also saw these birds quite a few weeks ago so, fingers crossed, they may breed successfully.

Flower-wise it's a Yellow story with Daffodils adorning the roadside verges, Celandine are showing off their bright flowers, it's hard to miss Dandelions but take a close look at the verges and you will see the bonny flowers of the Coltsfoot. This flower appears before the leaves and is making a good show just at present.

Pauline Wilson