The forecast for the Saturday morning of the public bird walk and ringing demonstration was quite windy but we hoped to get a little shelter in the 'East Ride' nets. John, Steve and I arrived before 7am and there was hardly a breath of wind, so we set the majority of nets but within an hour the wind had whipped up and we needed to take a couple down. The brisk wind affected the catch and generally most of the birds were taking shelter in the dense scrub. There were a few new species for the year with the first 3 Swifts, a Whitethroat, 2 Great Crested Grebes and 2 Pale-bellied Brent Geese, along with another 52 species sighted.
Although the catch was small the visitors were very pleased to see their first birds in the hand and got the opportunity to see some Blackcap, Bullfinch, Dunnock, Goldcrest, Great Tit, Reed Bunting and Willow Warbler. The others manned the nets while I continued the walk along the estuary shore to the Barmouth. The final catch was (retraps in brackets) Blackbird (1), Blackcap 1, Bullfinch (2), Dunnock 1 (2), Goldcrest (1), Great Tit (1) Reed Bunting 1 and Willow Warbler 2 (1).
The following day the forecast was much better with the wind abating to a light breeze and a marked increase in temperature so the first visit of the year to Grangemore was in order. I was a little tired and solo so I didn't arrive down until 8am and set just the four nets - two across the main ditch and 40 metres in the larger reedbed on this side of the river. In and around the marsh there were at least 6 pairs of Sedge Warbler (many more across the river), 2 singing male Grasshopper Warblers, 2 pairs of Stonechat and countless Meadow Pipits and Skylarks. While there I finished off some of the 'bridges' to cross the sheughs with the aid of old scaffolding planks kindly donated by David.
The catch was modest and I was only likely to catch a maximum of six Sedge Warblers with the territories well defined and the placement of the nets, so to catch four new birds was pleasing. A single Sand Martin and a Meadow Pipit completed the days catch. The next visit will probably be in mid-June for the first visit to the Sand Martin colony and hopefully the first wave of juveniles.
Images of the 'wader pools' highlighting how dry it has been of late
As I said at the start of the post I will follow up with a post on my recent Copeland Bird Observatory trip and I'll perhaps see if David S wants to write a bit about his weekend trip! The patch list for the estuary has now topped the 100 mark by two and I'm well on the way to matching last years 123 species.