/ UKC Springwatch

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coinneach - on 25 Mar 2013
Took a trog round the neighbourhood today looking out for signs of spring.

Peewits aplenty, Golden Plover and a few curlews who were looking a bit pissed off about all the white stuff on the fields...... If I were them I'd nip back to the Solway for a week or two. No Oystercatchers yet but they're normally last to arrive.

From Bud Neill


The snowdrap drips
The crocus croaks
And in my little windae boax
A yella daffy hings it's Heid

Oh daffy must you hing your Heid
Could you no heid your hing?
Far easier it would be to rhyme
Your heiding hing
Wi Spring!
Tim Chappell - on 25 Mar 2013
In reply to coinneach:


Spring is sprung
de grass is riz...
MattJP - on 25 Mar 2013
In reply to coinneach:

I did start the Summer Migrants thread, but it got shelved after not many migrants turned up!

However, in Mid Wales so far....

Wheatear
Sand Martin
And the First Osprey back at Glasyn!
interdit - on 25 Mar 2013
In reply to coinneach:

SW France, Pyrenees:

- Collard doves have been on a nest for 2 weeks.
- Saw first barn swallows Friday. (Being reported today by a contact near Bordeaux).
- Red kites are gathering sticks and displaying to each other.
- Blackbirds, wrens & robins have started nest construction.
- Redstarts arrived en-masse last week (some overwinter here, but many go away for the winter) - So they are now busy with fantastic aerial displays as they dogfight each other for territory.

On the flower front, so far we've had:

Snowdrop - Jan
Common Dog Violet - Jan
Hepatica (liverwort) - Jan
Alpine Strawberry - Feb
Lungwort - Feb
Hellebore - Feb
Oxlip - End Feb
Lesser Celandine - End Feb
Tormentil (Creeping Cinquefoil) - March
Bitter Vetch - March
Greater Stitchwort - March
White Violet - March
Lady's Smock (Cuckoo Flower) - March
Daffodil - March
Ground Ivy - March
Bittercress - March
White Deadnettle - March
Wood Anemone - Mid March
Forsythia - Mid March
Gentiane - Mid-late March

Cherry blossoms started a fortnight ago, during a period of warm weather, and are in full swing at the moment. Hopefully the recent hail & upcoming cooler weather won't do too much damage.
Peach trees & hedgerow trees are leaf budding.
johnwright - on 25 Mar 2013
In reply to interdit: Yesterday (sunday) in the Dordogne I saw a single Swallow, also heard a Cuckoo calling a few miles to the east of Sarlat la Caneda.
interdit - on 25 Mar 2013
In reply to johnwright:

Not had any cuckoo yet, but they certainly won't be long.

Also forgot - Green woodpeckers have been calling for mates & claiming territory for about 3 weeks.

Black woodpeckers are very vocal at the moment too - calling for mates.
Alyson - on 25 Mar 2013
In reply to MattJP: I noticed the wind has blown consistently and bitterly from the north east ever since you started that thread! If I were a chiffchaff I'd be hanging out in Spain for a while :-)
Alyson - on 25 Mar 2013
In reply to interdit: Here the most vocal spring singers in the last week or two have been the rather repetitive chaffinches and great tits, occasionally interrupted by the cheerful and far more musical dunnocks.

I've had blue tits investigating my nest box (although the 8 inches of snow this weekend seems to have driven them off) and I've seen magpies and rooks nestbuilding.
Toby S - on 25 Mar 2013
In reply to coinneach:

I've not spotted any summer migrants yet, we've still got the winter birds at the moment! Still a few flocks of Pink Footed and Greylag Geese hanging around (although we're getting increasing numbers of Greylag staying all year round) and there were Whooper Swans on the Spey yesterday. I managed to spot my first Crested Tit yesterday so I was reasonably happy with that :-)
johnwright - on 25 Mar 2013
In reply to interdit:
> (In reply to johnwright)
>
> Not had any cuckoo yet, but they certainly won't be long.
>
> Also forgot - Green woodpeckers have been calling for mates & claiming territory for about 3 weeks.
>
> Black woodpeckers are very vocal at the moment too - calling for mates.

I almost forgot, I saw a Green woodpecker as well.
Fredt on 25 Mar 2013
In reply to coinneach:

In our Sheffield garden yesterday, we observed a field mouse appearing out of 9" of snow at the foot of a pole that our bird feeders hang from. Several times he climbed the pole and helped himself to a peanut.
Dave Garnett - on 25 Mar 2013
In reply to interdit:
>
> On the flower front, so far we've had:
>
> Snowdrop - Jan
>> Peach trees & hedgerow trees are leaf budding.

We have snowdrops and (oddly) primroses in full bloom until last Friday... now buried under 1 -2 metres of snow.
MattJP - on 28 Mar 2013
In reply to Alyson:
> (In reply to MattJP) I noticed the wind has blown consistently and bitterly from the north east ever since you started that thread! If I were a chiffchaff I'd be hanging out in Spain for a while :-)

If I was a Chiffchaff, I wouldnt come back at all! :D

MattJP - on 28 Mar 2013
In reply to coinneach:

Ospreys now over Aberystwyth, and hopefully heading to the local Osprey project!
tony on 28 Mar 2013
In reply to MattJP:

Ospreys now back in Scotland, on camera occasionally at the Loch of the Lowed.
jon on 28 Mar 2013
In reply to coinneach:

Saw a flock of about 150 white Storks flying over the Drôme Provençal on 11 March. They were in a perfect V-formation - can this be called a skein? Coming from somewhere in Northern Africa. Where would they be going?

The pair of Egyptian Vultures (Percnopteres) arrived back at the Dentelles de Montmirail on the 21 March. These two spend winter in Mali - bet they couldn't wait to get away from there...
toad - on 28 Mar 2013
In reply to coinneach: Walking down the Trentside this morning I spent about 15 minutes watching a barn owl working it's way up and down a willow holt. No bins, but it came close enough for a really good view on a number of occasions.

Wee bit later on it was quite disconcerting that in amongs the old snow patches and the ice, I could hear skylarks singing their hearts out.

Yanchik - on 28 Mar 2013
In reply to toad:

Sparrowhawk just took one of the flock of long-tailed tits out of the couple of sycamore trees I stare at for many of my days.

Swish, swerve, wallop, exit. Two feathers flutter down. Tit -1.

Not particularly springlike, but noteworthy. I had to recollect myself on the 'phone.

Y
interdit - on 30 Mar 2013
In reply to Yanchik:
> (In reply to toad)
>
> Sparrowhawk just took one of the flock of long-tailed tits out of the couple of sycamore trees I stare at for many of my days.

Had a Sparrowhawk take out a chaffinch from the walnut tree week before last - made me jump somewhat as I was right under the tree and it sounded like a jet fighter coming in!

Pair of long-tailed tits are now setting up nest in our pine tree.
I've never seen them in less than a group of 8, so quite noticeable when a pair are following each other around - They appear to give a slightly different call to the chatter they do when moving though a canopy as a group.

I can confirm today what I though I saw last week were in fact the returning Black Kites who have overwintered in Africa.
Didn't have my binoculars last week to see them properly - didn't need them today as two of them nearly few through my car windscreen.
interdit - on 30 Mar 2013
In reply to jon:
> (In reply to coinneach)
>
> Saw a flock of about 150 white Storks flying over the Drôme Provençal on 11 March. They were in a perfect V-formation - can this be called a skein? Coming from somewhere in Northern Africa. Where would they be going?

Thats a lot of Cigognes!
We get a few pairs now nesting in the Ariege & the Haute Garonne (I think due in part to a reintroduction program - http://www.ledomainedesoiseaux.com/centre_de_reintroduction.htm ).
The nest are quite impressive, as are the birds. They are massive!

But that many birds are most likely heading towards one of the larger, more established nesting grounds. So somewhere in central Europe? Poland / Germany.
jon on 30 Mar 2013
In reply to interdit:

It was strange as we heard them coming quite some time before we saw them - their calls reminded me of geese, but an octave higher - then as they came overhead they seemed to lose direction and wheeled around for a bit and in doing so gained a lot of height. There were no high mountains for them to go over so I wonder why they did it, unless it was unintentional - the weather was warm but not exceptionally. Here are 115 of them, with another thirty or so off picture. http://flic.kr/p/e7cNLv

Do you know their migration route? Do they come over Spain and over you, or do you think they fly over the sea?
thomm - on 30 Mar 2013
Some brave skylarks were singing this morning over the chilterns, and the red kites have started showing off.
interdit - on 30 Mar 2013
In reply to jon:

Storks migrate by rising on thermals and then gliding. They go very high and are often not seen as they pass so high.

There are no thermals over water, so they often go the long way round, rather than fly across long stretches of water.
If they do cross then they rise ridiculously high on a thermal overland and then glide across whilst losing height - hopefully reaching the other side before splashdown.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:WhiteStorkMap.svg


Did you see them close enough to definitely say white storks? No chance of them being a crane?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lDUPNhe4hQ
interdit - on 30 Mar 2013
In reply to jon:

I was wondering about your description of the Stork calls and was thinking that I had never heard that, so i read up about it a little.
From the wiki page about White Storks:

Apart from beak clattering - ' The only vocal sound adult birds generate is a weak barely audible hiss; however, young birds can generate a harsh hiss, various cheeping sounds, and a cat-like mew they use to beg for food. Like the adults, young also clatter their beaks.'

That, your picture and your description of their strange circling have made me fairly sure you have seen Common (Eurasian) Cranes 'Grus grus'
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Crane

They started going back north about a month ago (up the west coast of France).

Many have a long way to go - Siberia for example!

Here are some flying over our house last autumn.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DToww08IM44

jon on 30 Mar 2013
In reply to interdit:

Yes, that's them! That's the sound they were making. I'd zoomed the photo and just guessed from that. That clip of yours looked like about double the number that I saw. Thanks for that.
interdit - on 30 Mar 2013
In reply to jon:

Cool. One of my favourite sights in the natural world.

> That clip of yours looked like about double the number that I saw. Thanks for that.

We saw several thousand of them heading south in the autumn.
The first youtube clip I linked to was the first passing that happened in the middle of the night. I heard them when I was letting the dog out.

Cranes flap, unlike the Storks which glide wherever possible.
Both use thermals to gain height, which is probably what your cranes were doing when circling. I've also seen stragglers catch up at this point, which probably makes the difference between making the trip or not.
jon on 30 Mar 2013
In reply to interdit:

Ah, I'd missed the first clip. I hadn't really thought about them flying through the night. Amazing things aren't they? I'll have to look out for them going south in the autumn.
jon on 31 Mar 2013
In reply to interdit:

Well I have a couple of questions for you. The pair of Percnoptères that arrived last week at the Dentelles stay here until late August, then set off back to Mali. In that time they have to renovate their old nest, lay an egg, incubate it, bring up the chick... How can a young bird be ready to make that journey back to Africa in such a short time? And how come it doesn't come back with the parents the following year? Here's one of the pair taken last year - they were too far away to get a photo today. http://flic.kr/p/e7eRg4
interdit - on 01 Apr 2013
In reply to jon:

I've just come on here to post that I spotted a pair of Egyptian Vultures / Percnoptères yesterday when walking the dog about 5 mins drive from the house. I saw them at very close range, but they didn't stay at close range for long when they saw me. I saw them twice very nearby last year, but am still not sure if we fall in the summer resident range or whether they are just resting on their migration.


Almost all birds have evolved to fledge the nest in under a year.*
It must have given competitive advantage in the past over species which took much longer to fledge - eg. The ability to migrate somewhere nicer, with more food when winter comes around.

How can the chick be ready to migrate?
Both parent feed it lots of high quality protein. They don't attempt to raise a large clutch size, generally laying no more than 2 eggs. If food is scarce then only the first chick (laid & hatched first & therefore bigger) survives and is fed.
The chick is an eating machine. It eats, sleeps & grows. Only in the latter stage of the nest does it start to exercise its muscles.
With many species the fledglings weigh more than the parents when they leave the nest - this gives them a fighting chance until they learn to feed themselves - I'm not sure if this is the case with the vultures.
The parents continue to feed the fledged vulture for up to a month after leaving the nest.
Finally, when they migrate they use thermals to gain height and glide lots - It takes a lot less energy than flapping.

Why don't they come back with their parents the next year?
They aren't sexually mature and so flying back to breed would be a waste of time and energy. Sexual maturity takes time and energy, and this couldn't wasted while the chick was in the nest - everything went into muscle, bone & those beautiful black & white feathers.



*I think the Wandering Albatross has the longest fledging period with the chick in the nest for 280 days and since the egg takes a long time to hatch the whole process can go over a year.
interdit - on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to johnwright:

Cuckoo calling from the woods opposite about 2 minutes ago :)
jon on 04 Apr 2013
In reply to interdit:

I saw a Hoopoe today here in Provence. Never seen one before, another visitor from N Africa, I believe.

Hilary is in Switzerland at the Gemmi Pass and caught a wonderful view of the resident Gypaete/Bearded Vulture http://www.flickr.com/photos/75247957@N03/8620456262/in/photostream
interdit - on 06 Apr 2013
In reply to jon:
> (In reply to interdit)
>
> I saw a Hoopoe today here in Provence. Never seen one before, another visitor from N Africa, I believe.

Yes, Africa and some Southern Spain.
They are back. Saw one today when we were on a very cold and un-springlike walk.
We've seen them in the same area lots before, but this is the first year we've actually spotted one quite this early and before we have heard the calls.
Hoopoe's probably have one of my favourite Latin names .

> Hilary is in Switzerland at the Gemmi Pass and caught a wonderful view of the resident Gypaete/Bearded Vulture http://www.flickr.com/photos/75247957@N03/8620456262/in/photostream

They are impressive. We got 'investigated' by one on a walk last autumn, but once he had done his two flybys he decided we, and the dog, probably weren't edible and so it vanished effortlessly across the valley.
waterbaby - on 07 Apr 2013
In reply to coinneach:

Early purple orchids are coming through down here
http://www.flickr.com/photos/waterbaby21/8624827203/in/photostream. Saw one violet in flower too:-)
Alyson - on 07 Apr 2013
In reply to coinneach: Got my first chiffchaff today! Closely followed by my next 20 or so. A definite migrant influx :) Also my first peacock butterfly of the season.

Saw a long tailed tit's nest, which is a thing of beauty, and two birds flying in and out with such beakfuls of feathers it was a wonder they could see where they were going. Black headed gulls, coots and mute swans all on nests, but also saw a redwing so it's that crossover point in the season where we have summer and winter visitors together.

All in all, a lovely day!
geologist - on 07 Apr 2013
In reply to coinneach:

Ring ouzel and lesser scaup for me today :)
yorkshireman - on 07 Apr 2013
In reply to geologist:

A sparrowhawk killed itself hitting our patio doors on Friday. Beautiful creature, but I'm drawing the line at googling taxidermy
jon on 07 Apr 2013
In reply to yorkshireman:

Leave them open in future.
coinneach - on 07 Apr 2013
In reply to coinneach:

Saw the first of the oystercatchers last night but down by the river and not up on the fells where we live.

There's a stand of forestry a mile or so up the road from us and it's been the scene of several murmerations of starlings at twilight...............Stunning!
interdit - on 07 Apr 2013
In reply to Alyson:

Your post makes it sound like spring is definitely arriving in the UK :)

Was the Chiffchaff a visual or was it calling?
interdit - on 07 Apr 2013
In reply to waterbaby:
> (In reply to coinneach)
>
> Early purple orchids are coming through down here
> http://www.flickr.com/photos/waterbaby21/8624827203/in/photostream. Saw one violet in flower too:-)

Saw our first Military Orchids 2 days ago.

Bugle is also in full flower now.
Alyson - on 07 Apr 2013
In reply to interdit: I heard it first, then got the visual. By the end of the day I'd seen at least a dozen and heard many more. Willow warblers next! Normally they're 3 or so weeks later but normally I have chiffchaff on or around 21-22 March so it'll be interesting to see if the willow warblers are delayed too or if they arrive shortly.
Toby S - on 07 Apr 2013
In reply to interdit:
> (In reply to Alyson)
>
> Your post makes it sound like spring is definitely arriving in the UK :)
>
Baws it is. It hasn't stopped snowing for the the last two days! We've had Yellowhammer and Brambling in the garden of the last couple of days.

Tall Clare - on 07 Apr 2013
In reply to coinneach:

I saw two Jacob lambs that were about half an hour old this evening. They were all wobbly and still covered in lamb-goo.
ring ouzel on 07 Apr 2013
In reply to coinneach: Had chiffchaff and common crane in Germany last weekend but here not a lot. Driving over by the Lecht last week there were lots of lapwings and curlew around waiting on the snow melting and at one of my sites near Stonehaven I definitely heard a skylark. Tomorrow I am in a forest where we have an active pine marten den and I am trying to find a third goshawk nest but the snow is very deep so I am not sure I will actually get in to the place!
interdit - on 07 Apr 2013
In reply to Toby S:
> (In reply to interdit)
> [...]
> Baws it is. It hasn't stopped snowing for the the last two days! We've had Yellowhammer and Brambling in the garden of the last couple of days.

lol. Know that feeling.
Despite all the spring sightings I've posted on this thread, in the last week we've had snow, hail & 70kph winter storms.

The Hoopoe we saw was one of the wettest, most miserable birds i've ever seen.
Tall Clare - on 07 Apr 2013
In reply to Tall Clare:

Oh, and a little baby wild rabbit. In the living room, yesterday morning. I put it outside and hope it hopped off to a happy life elsewhere.

And a hare, hurtling, the other day.
interdit - on 07 Apr 2013
In reply to Alyson:
> (In reply to interdit) normally I have chiffchaff on or around 21-22 March so it'll be interesting to see if the willow warblers are delayed too or if they arrive shortly.

We seem to have had Spring flowers and returning birds at the earlier end of their average range - despite the fact I don't think the weather has been particularly great.

coinneach - on 07 Apr 2013
In reply to Tall Clare:

We have our first lambs too..........I was labelled bad dad last week for not taking in a pet lamb.

Spent part of today in the garden without a coat!

The last patches of snow only melted this morning.
Toby S - on 07 Apr 2013
In reply to interdit:

Apparently the first Osprey's have arrived back on Speyside. The poor sods will most likely turn up at the Boat of Garten RSPB centre looking bedraggled and proclaiming - 'We've gone on holiday by mistake'.
joan cooper - on 07 Apr 2013
In reply to coinneach: Had long tailed tits on the bird seed hangers and bullfinches pecking flower buds off the trees. Also chaffinch ,greenfinch and siskin. The bluetits are nesting in the box the robin and thrush are singing their heads off on Skye. Primroses been out for 2 weeks Daffs very slow, white heather in full bloom Fed up with the smoke from out of control muirburning though.
cb294 - on 08 Apr 2013
In reply to joan cooper:

Dresden, Germany while cycling to work this morning: First chiffchaff of the season, first reed buntings calling, and a beaver swimming in the Elbe (probably born last year and now displaced from the territory).

Yesterday, common cranes, green, grey, large spotted and black woodpeckers, sea eagles, willow tit, and kingfisher at the former Königsbrucker Heide artillery range just north of the city.

Couple of weeks ago I saw my first wolf just a few miles west of there, running across a snowy field towards a group of deer. Finding wolf tracks is easy, but the animals themselves are surprisingly hard to see.

CB
999thAndy on 08 Apr 2013
In reply to coinneach:
Not a springwatch bird, but we had about 12 waxwings in our garden yesterday. Pretty rare for Stockport I think.
NickD - on 08 Apr 2013
No real sign of spring birds in the Llanberis Pass yet. The residents in the slate quarries (meadow pipits, choughs, stonechats, etc.) have been calling and starting to sing, and I think I heard a skylark tuning up on Saturday. The previous weekend I had a red kite over my house in Llanberis, which is a first for me.

There are wheatears, ring ousels and chiffchaffs around the area, but none have ventured up to the Pass yet.

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