Sunday, 20 March 2016

Merlin and Grey Wagtail

I considered writing about the first day of Spring, but actually nothing remarkable happened in that respect today and I imagine others will do a much more accomplished job.

Today I was woken by the bright sunshine through the window and after yesterday's grey day, the thought of wasting a minute of sunshine was too much. I grabbed a coffee, then my things, and headed straight out. It was appreciably warmer and as I walked to the start of my daily route, it felt as though the birds were singing harder, sharing in my optimism that the worst of winter was behind us.

Meadow pipit, skylark, reed bunting and snipe were noted early on and I was sure today was going to turn up something new. I thought I'd pretty much checked off all the winter residents I was going to see this side of summer and instead had ambitions for the first African migrants. The sand martin cliff was still, the flooded wood quiet without chiffchaff or willow warbler and I became resigned to waiting one week more.

Then, the chaffinches changed their tune and three males dashed for cover. I looked to see what had spooked them and saw a small compact falcon flying towards me, 100ft in the air. Kestrel? No... something wasn't right; it was stockier and shorter-tailed. It was that blessed merlin at last! I watched it pass over me, just close enough to make out its mask, then followed it as it flew in a perfectly straight line South, along the river and over the rooftops of Morton on Swale. In the excitement, I completely forgot I had my camera slung over my shoulder and failed to get a record shot.

This afternoon I headed for the river with my hide hoping to stake out kingfisher. I found a pool with minnows and stickleback present and overhanging branches; perfect. I set up and waited. And waited. The calls of a passing kingfisher piqued my interest and I stuck it out for three hours on a backless chair. The pain was only eased by a chance encounter with two grey wagtail; I presume the pair that I saw gathering nesting materials yesterday.

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