Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Most of our Chiffchaffs have arrived, any day now our Willow Warblers

One of my older sketches, but its that time of the year again when I can check out the Chiffchaff arrivals. (Please click over illustration to enlarge)
I get so excited when I hear the first Chiffchaff.  Which for me represents the very first sign of Spring, which is offered by song from one of our favourite migrants.  Usually I get my first bird back on or around the 24th March, but this year it was as late as the 12th April.  Having done only a rough survey at this stage I can now confirm as I write that the undermentioned Chiffs are all back on territory, having been witnessed singing from the very same spot (even the same tree in most cases) as last year and the year before that.  All this information is kept on record on a excel spreadsheet, on which I have recorded the dates of arrivals, the areas, the regular visits over the next six weeks and where possible the confirmation of breeding (without causing any disturbance), other interesting facts and their last song (usually part or scratchy) etc etc.

So hello to: Craig (Plain Quarry), Summer (Summer House, Dalton), Lance, Clarky and Miss-A-Note (Lancelot Clark Storth), Lee (Thornleigh) Storm (Storth Wood, Dalton), Hilda and Lisa at Hilderstone, Chiff and Chaff at the Canal (Station Pub end), and this very morning the arrival of Dale (Dalton Hall).

For me its so much easier to be able to record the individual birds with their own personal names for each of the 33+ Chiffchaffs in or around the Burton In Kendal area. I suppose it also adds that personal touch and a sort of  "warmth" feel to it all. Lets face it they are a very special little creature that give us so much pleasure (they will never know!!).

Tuesday April 16th 2013 (Burton In Kendal)

0630hrs  Hello to Dale (Dalton Hall) a new Chiffchaff arrival.  Also heard Lee singing at Thornleigh.  This morning was so difficult to hear anything with the strong 25-30mph South Westerlies.  One thing for sure is that South Westerlies will not hamper the Swallows coming through, in fact they will probably be able to go through at a good height with a pushing "side wind".  I will be out soon to check out more "warbler hot spots" and then later on to see how the old Swallow corridors are fairing!

0900hrs - 1030hrs Dalton Crags to Trig and Return.  The wind was strong at 25mph with gust to 40mph and this made it so noisy you struggled to hear anything proper. Occasionally I would hear the odd Mipit, although I couldn't tell whether they were birds flying through or just grounded birds calling, I think maybe the latter, because the only bird which I did see in the Sky was Sky the Lark who somehow managed to ascend to a great height (100ft or maybe 200ft) in such a straight vertical line without flinching whilst yet these strong winds would be flying into him, yet he held straight with only what I could have presumed much resistance! Rather amazing to watch whilst under these severe conditions.

1200hrs-1500hrs Slape Lane, Burton Fell, Lancelot.
Wind still strong and a struggle hearing.  Did manage to hear new in Chiffchaff "Bunty" at the top of the incline on Burton Fell but still not the other two higher up. All three Chiffs singing in Lancelot.  No Willow Warblers anywhere. A pair of Long Tailed Tits and Goldcrest singing in Lancelot. Also Marsh Tit calling at Slape/Clawthorpe track crossover. I have heard it here before singing with a explosive "tichooety, chooety, chooety, choo"
Plenty of nice flowers here with L. Celandine, Wood Anemone, Dog Violets, Dogs Mercury, Ground Ivy and the beautiful primrose.

"Confusion of Willow Warblers"
Click over sketch to enlarge
1900hrs-2030hrs Hilderstone to Cinderbarrow

"Confusion of Willow Warblers"

Had about 50 or 60 Hirundines grouped and flying West as though probably to Leighton Moss for roost overnight.

2000hrs It was such a privilege to witness that rare siting of a "Confusion of Willow Warblers" with no less than ten birds in the party group obviously feeding up before their next leg of their onward nocturnal journey North. They were on the side of the Lancaster Canal about 3-400 yards NW of Tarn Lane Bridge.  It was some spectacle to watch them constantly flying off the tree branches and sort of hovering mid air to ravish the spills of the many midges present.

2015hrs Even at 2015hrs 3 Meadow Pipits passing over.

Wednesday April 17th 2013  (Burton In Kendal)    
"Blackcaps overnight"

0600hrs A nice singing Song Thrush at the top of Mowbray Drive, and just a small hint of song by Lee the resident "Thornleigh" Chiffchaff.  Still awaiting Mo and Thor from this area
0620hrs Besides Dale, Lad the Chiffchaff is today back and singing at Dalton Hall.

1100hrs - 1300hrs  (Dalton, Lancelot, Burton Fell)
No birds seen crossing over on migration. Winds still at 20mph SSW.

First Willow Warbler returned overnight to Burton Fell and in part song, usual place. Also another four separate Willow Warblers arrived overnight and singing in full within Lancelot Clark Storth.
First two Blackcaps have also arrived overnight and in full scratchy song in Pickles Wood, same spot as last year.

Thursday April 18th 2013 (Burton In Kendal)

0600hrs Had been terrible in the night with gales up to 60mph. Tree blown down on Dalton Lane, there must have been some early bird maintainance out this morning, to have already moved the tree into the side of the road with evidence of it having been sawn through.

0630hrs One of the rare extreme mornings with Winds still blowing at 30-40 mph WSW, combined with heavy rain. Although you struggled to hear anything, you could just about make out the odd "croaky" Blackbird in the background, or the distant Robin, and to my suprise I actually did hear some low level melodic song coming from the Goldcrest at Browside on Vicarage Lane.

0830hrs  Stopped raining coming through sunny now! but wind still not abating. Will check out Warbler arrivals later, for now catch up with paperwork etc etc etc.....

1400hrs-1515hrs (Plain Quarry to Trig and return)  "Return of Tree Pipit"
Still blowing at about 30mph but with severe 50 mph gust.. The only bird I actually saw whilst going through Dalton deforested turned out to be a much welcomed, yet grounded Tree Pipit which was very close to me (within 20 yards) and enabled me to get good views.  Also it was noted that the Shrike Tree has now lots its glory with the top five feet having been snapped off during these heavy winds.

Friday April 19th 2013 (Burton In Kendal)  "Fall of Willow Warblers"

0600-0700hrs.  Wind dropped to about 15mph WNW. No Warblers singing yet whilst on my way around the village. Blackbirds far more prominent now with their treetop or high position singing, almost tame as you walk beneath them, they just carry on singing without a care.  They seem to have taken over the head chorister position since the Song Thrushes went quiet above a week ago.  A Great Spotted Woodpecker at Russell Farm was drumming on the tin capping at the very top of a telegraph pole. He did not just do it once he did it several times, so what that was in aid of I dont know! perhaps sharpening or blunting his bill!

1400hrs - 1700hrs (Plain Quarry, Dalton, LCS and Burton Fell) "Another Tree Pipit"

Obviously been a massive fall of Willow Warblers during yesterday evening with large numbers seen.  New arrivals included 6 in Dalton Crags, 5 in Lancelot Clark Storth, 10 in Burton Fell and 2 on the Common, making a total of 23 just recorded on the straightforward footpath route.  Also a new Chiffchaff has come into Lancelot.  But to press we are still two Chiffchaffs missing from Burton Fell, and 3 missing from Dalton Crags.  I dont think I can ever recall were Willow Warblers have actually arrived before Chiffchaffs, but this looks the case here.

Another Tree Pipit has arrived in Dalton deforested and was singing and displaying. Also three Swallows arrived back on territory at Russell Farm, Dalton.

Saturday April 20th 2013 (Burton In Kendal)

0630hrs  (Wind 7mph ESE). A pair of Swallows are back on territory at Green Dragon Farm.  Also looks like "Mo" the Chiffchaff may have arrived at the bottom of Mowbray Drive. The Russell Farm Swallows hawking from around the farm.

0830-1030hrs (Wind 12mph S) Several new Willow Warblers recorded from Crag House side.  Also the Tree Pipit on Crag House Side has arrived back and calling. A Tree Pipit from midway down the lower Crags also calling.  3 Great Black Backs came in from the East to West.  Sky the Lark in Dalton deforested was singing at his best with lots and lots of (Tree Pipit) mimickry!  3 Jays crossed over East to West and came down in Dalton (probably local). Informed that the House Martins are back on territory at Dalton Hall

Sunday April 21st 2013 (Burton In Kendal)

0900-1030hrs (Wind: 15mph S) (from Nineteen Trees - Trig - Lancelot - Burton Fell - Lancelot)
All Warblers very much subdued with the only calling birds being the ones sheltered within Pickles Wood at the bottom of Lancelot, here also two of the Chiffchaffs were calling, everywhere else seem to draw a blank.

Also it was a similar situation with the Tree Pipit new arrivals - not one could be heard on any of the territories today.
I think it must be something to do with the relentless persistent strong winds which were again present today. Its been a fairly consistent similar situation for the past week or so in relation to the Warblers which have certainly been low key and very "held back" with their song. Usually in past years on their arrival I have noticed that they are full of the joys of Spring and bubbly with continual enthusiastic singing, but this year there's been hardly any of that, in fact they have been far more subdued in general and that's the way it seems to be continuing, well at least up to today.

In fact I am beginning to wonder what's going on in relation to our Chiffchaffs. Still has I write there is only 14 calling birds returned to their respective territories out of 33 monitored (in 2011 and 2012), and now some of them are four weeks overdue compared to previous years.  There has not been any noticeable arrivals in the past few days in relation to our Chiffchaffs. It does seem unusual for most of the Willow Warblers to be back on territories before the Chiffchaffs!  Hopefully this next week may bring them through........