Chris Farthing’s Woodberry bird highlights: March 2019

Chris Farthing’s Woodberry bird highlights: March 2019


March is generally a busy birding month here. Winter visitors are leaving, summer visitors are arriving, and there is always the possibility of seeing passage migrants. The highlight of the month was a sand martin, which arrived on the morning of March 12th, doing a few circuits of the reservoir before heading off north. This was our first returning long-distance migrant (the bird had probably been in southern Africa a week-or-so before), and represented our earliest ever record for the species.

We often get some more unusual ducks here in March. A shelduck (picture 1 below) was only seen once, on the 1st, but the first red-crested pochards (main picture above) of the year visited fairly frequently from the 16th, usually only briefly, in groups of up to five with males always outnumbering females. Shoveler and teal continued to be seen regularly in small numbers.

Another new-for-2019 bird which was seen several times through March was little egret (2), which were seen mostly during periods of low water levels. Water rail and snipe were seen less often in March than the previous winter months as birds moved on, and it is possible that no individuals of either species were here at the end of the month. Other departing birds during March were common gull and black-headed gull, though small numbers of non-breeding examples of the latter can still be seen here occasionally.

The first kingfisher (3) of the year was seen on the 24th, spending a few hours here during which time it was seen along the New River and flying across the reservoir. A kestrel was seen a couple of times early in the month, whilst sparrowhawk and peregrine were seen more regularly.

The busiest month for jay (4) is usually October (acorn season) but they were very active here in March, being seen most days in numbers of up to six, and were often very vocal. Birdsong hotted up once the first blackcap of the year arrived on the 9th. Their numbers increased to at least a handful by the end of the month. March was a good month for the humble house sparrow (5), the colony along the eastern border of the site have been largely absent through the winter, but seem to have returned now. Early in the month reed buntings (6) could be heard singing from the reed-bed, but as the month went on and the birds paired up, singing decreased and by end of the month sightings of the species were mostly fleeting glimpses of a pair.



The total number of bird species seen in March was 62, the same number as in March 2016, but well behind the exceptional totals of 68 in both March 2017 and 2018.

[All photos by Chris Farthing]

Posted on April 09th 2019