I love this time of year – every day new birds arrive, and in the last few days everywhere seems alive with migrants, with many more species yet to arrive.
My first migrant, as always, was a singing chiffchaff on 22nd March, although obviously it’s always hard to tell with this species whether it’s a true migrant, or an overwintering individual. This one was at Ponderosa; in previous years my first had been around the old house at Loxley, on 20th March in 2009, and 21st in 2010.
Secondly came wheatear on Wharncliffe Chase on 28th March, the first one I’d had before April, and far beating last year’s first on 10th April. It took me three attempts to get one, and I was a good few days after the first to be reported.
My first sand martins were at Chatsworth Park on 2nd April – they’re always among the first migrants to return, but I always get these on a fairly late date as they’re scarce birds at my end of Sheffield.
Blackcap next on 5th April, singing at Ponderosa. Again, like chiffchaff, this could be an overwintering bird, but I hadn’t seen any there during the winter. This equals my earliest date for a singing blackcap.
7th April saw a double whammy during an evening walk from Grenoside to Stanley Hill, with my first swallows and willow warblers recorded. Last year I’d got them both on the same day too, but three days later on the 10th during a walk at Bradfield.
Finally I got my first little ringed plover at Hatfield Moors on 9th April. Again, this is a species I usually get later than their first arrival dates, due to the eastern bias of their distribution in our area.
This weekend everywhere seems to have exploded with migrants; at Hatfield on Saturday every bush seemed to be bursting with willow warbler, blackcap or chiffchaff song, sand martins were present in good numbers, and there were plenty of swallows on the way home. Wandering around the local area on Sunday, I counted nearly 40 willow warblers, with blackcaps and chiffchaffs much in evidence too.
Redstart, house martin, pied flycatcher, common sandpiper, whitethroat, cuckoo, ring ouzel, osprey and common tern have all been recorded by the SBSG so far, and so there’s plenty out there, and much more yet to arrive. Did I mention I love this time of year!