Monday, 21 April 2008

Sings and Wings

Today was still spoilt by an uncomfortable North-easterly wind. The fog had receded but it was still to hazy to make sea watching worthwhile.
In South Foreland Valley I found one Willow Warblers singing in a sheltered spot. The simple song is the one which always gives me great pleasure as it seems to usher in the new season. According to research from the RSPB our many of our migrant birds are declining at a very worrying rate and the Willow Warbler is one of the most worrying with a long term decline of 60%. There are certainly places in Kent where they used to be common and they are now absent or very scarce.

As today's weather wasn't suitable for finding small birds in bushes to photograph I decided to go for the easy targets, even in the wind it's difficult to miss a bird weighing about 10Kg (22 lbs) and with at 7 foot wings span. The birds with darker patches are last years young, and it's surprising that the adults that that should be nesting soon are still tolerating their young in their territories. The normally chase them away before spring gets going.

The real status of the Mute Swan is unclear. Certainly if there was ever a truly wild population it was supplemented by introductions in the Middle Ages and most birds became domesticated and it was used for food. Now of course it would be hard to tell domesticated birds from genuine wild birds. There is still the anachronistic rubbish about the birds in the Thames basin belonging to the family that lives in Buckingham palace.

While I was waiting for the Swans to fly by, I took the opportunity to get a picture of this Redshank as it noisily flew round the scrape. The white secondaries are a distinctive field mark of the Redshank.
This female Mallard showed of the blue speculum bordered with broad white fringes.

This looks to me a typical female Wigeon, at least it does when it's sitting on the water. However I was somewhat surprised to read in two guides that there should be "no obvious trailing edge to the secondaries". Well there is in this bird.

In the garden there are still up to 20 Siskins visiting the feeders, along with Greenfinches, Chaffinches and a couple of Goldfinches. The male Brambling briefly appeared this afternoon and a Magpie was practising clinging to a peanut feeder, but so far hasn't succeeded for more than a second or so at a time.

Mothing remains poor with just a few individuals and no new species.

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