Hard as it is to believe but March is already a fast fading memory and with it another month of the Patchwork Challenge has been and gone. I had hoped to have seen my first spring migrants by now but other than a couple of Chiffchaffs which have been singing fairly regularly, I’ve drawn a complete blank. No Willow Warblers, hirundines or Wheatears, the latter well over a week beyond my earliest sighting date from a couple of years ago. This delay doesn’t seem to be localised to my own patch either with much of the country reporting a similar dearth of new arrivals. That’s not to say there haven’t been changes in behaviour and abundance from some of my patch residents though. Far from it. An evening stroll on the 26th for instance delivered a surprise flock of ten Yellowhammers just below Bryn-bach-Common and there are now appreciably more Meadow Pipits around compared to just a couple of weeks ago. One was even kind enough to pose against the setting sun resulting in probably my favourite photo so far this year.
Passing overhead were two Canada Geese, presumably some of the same birds which seem to be migrating back and forth at this time each night, and another couple of calling Chiffchaffs. Other than that things were relatively quiet with just the bleating of newborn lambs and a couple of passing Hercules transport planes to disrupt an otherwise tranquil evening.
Fast forward to last Tuesday and Spring seemed to have taken another step backwards as we walked hunched up against a bitterly cold wind. A Red Kite low over the fields and a distant Buzzard were nice to see as were another trio of Yellowhammers again just beneath Bryn-bach-Common. That last sighting is particularly pleasing as recently it had seemed as though the local Yellowhammer population had taken a dive or at the very least were staying away from some of their regular haunts. I had surmised that this change in range had been as a result of Gorse being cleared away from the Common, but in reality who knows. I’m just glad that they’re back and even managed to get this male on camera down in the valley.
Looking at that shot you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was a gloriously sunny evening, but you’d be wrong. The weather was continually ranging from one extreme to another with heavy rain showers one minute giving way to cloudless blue skies the next. They do say round here that if you don’t like the weather just wait ten minutes and it will have changed, a surprisingly accurate outlook particularly on such windy days.
What we really wanted to find though were a couple more patch ticks with which to round off March and to keep the excellent start to this years challenge ticking over. As it turned out we didn’t have to search particularly hard with a calling Pheasant somewhere over on Cefn Drum first in the book, closely followed by a very active Grey Wagtail. The latter was flitting back and forth over the flood alleviation scheme site and just goes to show that my hopes of the new habitat there attracting in a few more birds were not entirely misplaced. Admittedly I had been thinking of something not normally seen on patch but I’ll take a Grey Wagtail any day of the year as they are still far from common here. Again there were no spring migrants however which I guess means that this month should turn out to be very productive indeed. Fingers crossed.
2015: 49 / 2014: 64