Chris Farthing’s Woodberry bird highlights: May 2017
The month of May sees the tail-end of spring migration, and all of our regular summer visitors are now here. Much activity relating to breeding occurs, including a happy event for the resident pair of mute swans (main picture above): nine cygnets hatched on May 6th and all nine were alive and well at the end of the month.
Certainly the birding highlight of the month was a visit from two female bar-tailed godwits (picture 1 below), early in the morning on the first day of the month. These birds hold the record for the longest known non-stop migration, with birds having been recorded flying from Australasia to Alaska. Strictly this sighting was over the road on the west reservoir, but the birds would have flown over Woodberry Wetlands as they continued their migration following their stop-off during heavy rain.
The godwits were not the only wading bird during May, the second oystercatcher of the year flew over on May 10th, and there were sporadic sightings of both little ringed plover and common sandpiper.
Amongst water birds, a pair of shelduck (2) have been present almost every day through May, making it a possibility that they will breed here for the first time. Red-crested pochard were also seen regularly in the first half of the month.
Towards the end of May the reservoir water level was low for a prolonged period. This meant that birds of the heron family became much more regular, with one or two little egrets (3) visiting most days, and numbers of grey heron here at any one time could often be more than five.
After a few sightings of a single common tern (4) passing though at the start of the month, a regular pair of birds started to spend most of their time here from mid-month. This triggered the uncovering of the tern rafts, which had been covered with netting to stop gulls and geese from nesting there. The terns are now often landing on the rafts, and many fingers are crossed for a first breeding record here.
The most common raptor in May was peregrine, closely followed by sparrowhawk. Red kite (5) and common buzzard (6) were also seen.
Amongst the smaller birds, the young of many species are evident, including coal tit, grey wagtail and goldcrest. We had the first whitethroat (7) of the year on the 11th, and a spotted flycatcher (8), a regular bird here on autumn passage but seldom seen in spring, was seen on the 24th
The total species count for May was 72, just eclipsing April to be the highest total so far this year.
[All photos by Chris Farthing]