chicken 1

Friday, 14 May 2021

Spring So Far - Mostly Ruislip Lido

With spring slow everywhere around the country, it's not really a surprise I spent most of my hours at Ruislip Lido seeing absolutely nothing. Because the regular migrant hotspots were barely getting anything, looking for migrants at the Lido felt a bit hopeless. However, with all the days and weeks of nothing much, some stuff did appear in the emptiness. 

The first interesting bird of the spring was on the part of my patch that I've only recently been visiting. It's part of Ruislip Woods, but the path runs through the woodland alongside some farmland and open fields, with thick hedges and open ground. Unfortunately most of thickest hedges and fenceposts, probably heaving with Chats and Ouzels, is part of the private farmland, either too distant or completely unviewable - in fact that is probably one of the problems with this site - there is so much green space for migrants to spread out into, most of it being impossible to check. However, there is a thick hedgerow that runs alongside the path, easily viewable, yet on private land so it cannot be disturbed. This spot, and as well as a farming machinery area, are the spots I check most, along with an elevated area with good views over the surrounding fields. 

The hedges hold plenty of birds, with a load  of Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and a few Whitethroats singing. However, this hedge also managed to draw in the highlight of the Spring so far - a singing Grasshopper Warbler on the 7th of April, complete with the natural soundtrack of the local shooting grounds. Considering they are not too common locally (no clue where the closest breeders are though), it was a pretty exciting bird to have on patch. It stayed all day and into at least the morning of the next, with a couple of local birders managing to catch up with it. 

Grasshopper Warbler singing - in the excitement I forgot to take my phone cover off, but at least I was able to get a recording of the sound

Grasshopper Warbler Bushes 

Aside from that though, these fields didn't really manage to produce anything else yet - although it could be better in autumn.

Somehow, I even managed to miss Wheatear this spring as well, despite dozens of miles walked around local farmland, and an influx of them near the start of the spring. However, there have been a few other highlights - nothing too exciting in the standards of any larger of more rural patches, but still pretty decent locally. While other London patches were recording species like Temminck's Stint, Black Tern and Pied Flycatcher, I was patch ticking Reed Bunting, Sedge Warbler and Red-crested Pochard. That's one of the great thing about patching, though - I don't think, other than when I first started birding, I've ever been more excited by seeing an adult male Reed Bunting, or hearing the quiet subsong of a Sedge Warbler - it really makes you appreciate the commoner species more. My first Cetti's Warbler on site also turned up near the start of the spring, along with the first returning Common Sandpiper. 

Some more migrants did move through as well, though - there were plenty of large hirundine flocks throughout the spring (Sand Martins, House Martins and Swallows) to keep me entertained, along with the first returning Swifts and Hobbies recently. Hobbies are pretty regular, but can never really get boring. 

Other than that though, a showy Yellow Wagtail provided entertainment - the best views I've had of this species here. The Garden Warblers have returned, with about 4-5 singing birds around the area, while Whitethroats and Willow Warbler continue to sing in Poor's Field, including the first Lesser Whitethroat of the year recently. The Redpoll flock is still lingering, along with the occasional flyover siskin and Linnet. Little Grebes are very vocal on the Lido.

Yellow Wagtail

Other wildlife interest came in the form of Slow Worms and Grass Snakes, along with the usual foxes and deer (Muntjac I think). The moth trap was put out once this spring with the enormous total of 2 Moths - 1 Small Quaker and 1 Common Quaker. 

Slow Worm 

I have escaped the Lido a couple of times this spring as well - including a few walks up to an area a couple of miles beyond it to some farmland. A few things have shown themselves here - a large flock of Linnets and, more surprisingly, a random flyover Mandarin Duck - not sure where the closest population even is. 

Another outing to Broadwater Lake was in the hope of some passage gulls and terns, as Staines and Walthamstow were receiving huge numbers of Little Gulls, along with many other places in the country. This turned out to be successful, with more than I expected - a flock of 30 Little Gulls, and the first large flock I had seen. They formed a tight flock and worked there way up and down the lake, sometimes with the whole flock disappearing for long periods. 

Broadwater also produced an Oystercatcher, a singing Sedge Warbler, a flyover Yellow Wagtail and some Red-Crested Pochards - a great site - shame it and the land around is being massacred by HS2. 

I also left London for the first time in 9 months to go to Norfolk for a long weekend - I twitched some Ring Ouzels and saw a summer plumage Spotted Redshank, Whimbrel, Bittern, Crane and Spoonbills - it's always good to be back here. 

Ring Ouzels 
The peak of the Spring feels like it's pretty much passed for my inland patch - the rest of May has some potential but it feels like its mostly about rarer spring migrants towards the end of the month, and given the lack of even a single Wheatear here this spring, I'm guessing none of those will be turning up. But it isn't long before the water levels will fall and return wader passage will start again - any wader other than Common Sandpiper is pretty mega here, so I look forward to seeing what happens in a couple of months.