March-April 2021 – Mediterranean Gulls but not Mediterranean weather
A burst of summery warmth at the end of March then turned into a very dry and cold April, with frosts and almost continual northerlies or easterlies. Not surprisingly this resulted in a slow trickle of summer visitors, but ducks and waders heading north for the summer turned up in good numbers.
Best ducks included the handsome male Pintail which arrived mid March and stayed to the end of April, adopting a small group of Mallards and even following them into the garden of the neighbouring house, from which he afforded some excellent views. Another fine bird was the male Garganey which stayed briefly in April, snoozing on the small island in front of the Gadwall hide. We also enjoyed a pair of Red-crested Pochards which appeared at the end of March, and were joined by another 1-2 birds in April, so a second breeding record seems possible.
Three Spotted Redshanks found on the Scrape at dawn one day in April were our largest ever flock, and only the 12th year they have been recorded. Then later that same day, a Black Tern put in a brief appearance.
The following day, a Whimbrel flew over, and a repeat flyover happened on a later date. The same or a different bird?
The arrival of a fine spring Mediterranean Gull was a pleasure; he hung around for the remainder of the period, and whilst a second male appeared briefly, he has failed to attract a mate.
There have been up to fiveLittle Ringed Plovers, leading us to hope that they may attempt to breed here again. Our first Common Sandpiper and Common Tern have returned, and there were soon three or four Common Terns hanging about waiting for the last raft to be put out, the other rafts being chock full with Black-headed Gulls by this time.
Meanwhile Jack Snipe declined from a count of 15 in early March to the last bird on 26th April, believed to be the latest spring record at Rye Meads.
Another star performer was the Turtle Dove which appeared in April – sad to mention that’s our first for six years for a species which formerly bred in reasonable numbers.
The first of two male Cuckoos have arrived back, as have the first Hobby – the sixth raptor to be seen regularly over the period – and the first Swift.
With the chilly weather persisting, summer visitors amongst the passerines seem to have been trickling rather than flooding back. As usual the pathfinders were led by Chiffchaff, with up to ten birds in March and a steady increase in April, and Blackcap, with up to 20 seen.
March had the first House Martin, together with an impressive 50 Sand Martins. Then the first Swallow followed in April, and all of the regular summer warblers arrived bit by bit, including a couple of passage Willow Warblers.
Last of the Fieldfares and Redwings had gone by the end of March, and up to 11 Meadow Pipits in March lingered with the last bird seen late April. A singing Mistle Thrush was an unusual bird for Rye Meads on two dates. Finally, there was just one Siskin in the period, and unremarkable numbers of our other usual finches and buntings.