Chris Farthing’s Woodberry bird highlights: March 2017
In the birdwatching year March is a month of great change. Winter visitors are moving off north to their summer breeding grounds, and towards the end of the month our summer visitors start to arrive. The new arrivals settle in to new territories and fill the site with bird song as they try to attract mates. March also offers the possibility of passage migrants, birds passing through from Africa or mainland Europe towards their breeding sites in northern Britain or beyond.
Unfortunately it wasn’t a good month here for passage migrants. Whilst a couple of miles north-east at Walthamstow around ten different wading birds turned up on the mud of their two partially drained reservoirs in March, the mud here disappointingly failed to attract any migrating wading birds. Highlights in the early part of March – as through the winter – were from ducks and gulls, whilst highlights towards the end of March were from returning summer birds.
On the water, the regular pair of mute swans continue to fiercely defend their territory from any other arriving swan and have now nested amongst the lagoons. March has been unusual in that most days it has been possible to see all three of our common geese species (main picture above), greylag goose, Canada goose, and Egyptian goose. Either of the latter two species may provide a new breeding record for the site this year. An impressive total of nine duck species were present through March, as well as a couple of visits from a tufted duck x pochard hybrid. The most impressive ducks have been shelduck (1) which were seen frequently all month, usually a pair but six birds on one occasion, red-crested pochard (2) which have paid many brief visits, usually exclusively male birds in numbers of up to 7, and a single male goosander (3) which visited on March 10th.
Warm afternoons in March typically give rise to sightings of large raptors, and indeed common buzzards (4) were noted on two occasions. Peregrines were also seen a few times, including display flight by a pair on the 30th.
Although sightings of migrating waders were disappointing, two winter waders, snipe and jack snipe (5), provided plenty of interest in March. Snipe were seen very nearly every day, with groups of up to five birds being spotted together. The much more scarce and elusive jack snipe was seen on eight occasions in March with two birds being seen together a few times. Water rails were also seen all through March, especially during periods where the water level was low.
Seven different gulls visited in March, the most unusual being a very brief visit from a little gull on the 12th. At the other extreme, a 2nd calendar year great black-backed gull (6) bossed the gull pipes for around half an hour on the 25th. A sub-adult yellow-legged gull which has been regular all winter continued to be seen here up to mid-month.
We had a single visit on the 15th by a kingfisher (7), one of the two birds (the other being little egret) which were seen substantially less this winter than they were last winter.
A small number of both chiffchaff and blackcap overwinter in the UK and both species were seen occasionally in mid-winter here, but during March a large influx from mainland Europe meant that both birds could be heard singing almost constantly by the end of the month. Our first long-distance migrant was a swallow which passed through on the 29th, and this was followed by the first willow warbler (8) on the 31st.
The total species count for March was 68, the highest of the year so far, and beating the total of 62 birds seen here last March.
[All photos by Chris Farthing]