Chris Farthing’s Woodberry bird highlights: April 2018
April is possibly the most exciting month of the birding year here, as the majority of our summer visitors return, passage migrants are always likely to turn up, and the breeding season gets underway.
Although we did have visits from two locally scarce passage migrants in April, bird of the month was probably linnet (main picture above). Generally a bird of open countryside rather than an urban environment, they have proved quite difficult to see here over recent years, with the last sighting being a single flyover bird two years ago. This year however, two birds were first seen on April 11th and stayed for the remainder of the month. The first of the two more unusual passage migrants was a whinchat (picture 1 below), an approximately annual visitor which was seen on the 20th, then on the 27th a tree pipit (2) was seen and heard singing in an oak tree along the woodland trail. This is another species for which flyover records are more-or-less annual, but good views are far less common.
Amongst the water-birds, both teal and shoveler were still present well into April but have now left for their breeding grounds. Shelduck and red-crested pochard were both seen frequently through the month, which is typical of these species in the run-up to the breeding season. A common pochard x tufted duck hybrid (3) was present on the 27th.
There are far less gulls here now that the black-headed gulls have moved off to breed, though this species has still been recorded a few times as a flyover. The only vaguely unusual gull sighting was a great black-backed gull seen on the 16th.
Water rail and snipe, two of our elusive winter visitors, were still present at the start of April but soon appeared to move on. Our most common passage migrant wading bird, common sandpiper (4) was seen for the first time on the 23rd. The absence of little egret (5) up to late April was surprising, but once the first one was seen on the 26th, the presumed same bird continued to visit every day.
Raptor sightings were low through April, with only sparrowhawk being seen more than a handful of times. The first red kite of the year was seen on the 24th.
Another group of birds which return in April are the hirundines and swifts. The first swallow this year was on April 10th, followed two days later by both house martin and sand martin. Swifts were relatively late to return this year, first seen on the 26th.
The return of our summer warblers always provides a highlight in April, this year the first willow warbler appeared on the 3rd, with the first common whitethroat (6) on the 12th. Sedge warbler (7) followed a day later, with the first reed warbler (8) being seen on the 18th, after which they gradually built up to around 12 singing male birds at the end of the month.
The total species count for April was 73, broadly in line with April 2017 (71) and April 2016 (74).
[All photos by Chris Farthing]