Flava of the month

Yellow wagtail (Dan Heywood)
Despite the lack of forecast (then un-forecast) rain this morning there was still enough to entertain the early bird. I had rather hoped to be tripping over freshly dropped migrants but with a steady easterly wind and not a hint of water in the air this didn't seem too realistic a prospect as I cycled my way onto the patch.

First stop at Freeman's Pools revealed little to get excited about - the gang of prospective nesting black-headed gulls were loafing on the island as per usual. A couple of tufted duck, a lone lingering goldeneye and a pair of little grebes were the only things on the water other than the odd coot and moorhen. A small number of sand martins and a swallow were hawking over the pools.
The cycle track was soundtracked by multiple species in fine song; blackcaps, chiffchaffs, willow warblers, robins, blackbirds, wren, dunnock and a song thrush. A family (?) group of 7 jays were making their way noisily along the track edge.

It was business as usual at the recently trashed maize fields - pairs of lapwing rebonding and preparing to nest once again. Of course, we know this to be futile as the fields will be ravaged once more in the next stage of the effort to grow animal fodder. In most years, one or two nests may get chicks off but the successful ones come mostly from the adjoining fields, owned and managed by the Wildfowlers Association.

Common sandpiper (Dan Heywood)
The water-levels at the aforementioned Wildfowlers' Pools continue to drop, revealing more fabulous mud. While the bulk of the ducks and waders have cleared off, leaving just a few teal, 4 wigeon, the odd gadwall and a small number of black-tailed godwits and redshanks, this wet sloppy vista is certainly attracting a few passing migrants.

Top of the list is yellow wagtail - once a frequent spring passage bird here but shockingly scarce in recent years (reflecting the worrying, wider decline of this once common summer visitor). At least one dazzling male and rather cryptic female were seen by the pools this morning, though their mobility made keeping up with their whereabouts entertaining!
Dan contacted me just after 8.30am to say he'd found a couple more males on the Flood; they certainly hadn't been there when I'd checked around 7.30am. This is turning out to be the best year for this species on the Aldcliffe patch for literally decades.
Associated with this mega-event is the presence of large numbers of white wagtails. Ordinarily this area sees steady numbers moving through, mostly in the teens, but this spring we have been virtually inundated! There were at least forty feeding around the pools and the flood today. Quite impressive.

Wheatear (Dan Heywood)
Also on the Wildfowlers' Pools were just 3 little ringed plover (there were 7 there yesterday) and the common sandpiper was still picking its way around the pool edges. Good numbers of sand martin, with a few house martins and swallows were moving through while small groups of meadow pipit could be seen feeding among the wagtails or passing overhead.

A sedge warbler continues to sing at Reedy Corner, where there are still a few tufted duck hanging on, while a couple of wheatears were in the general area (saltmarsh and fields). I only heard one lesser whitethroat this morning and, surprisingly, I have yet to see or hear a common whitethroat.

A redstart was reported from near the Wildfowlers' Pools yesterday. Other birds seen by regular Aldcliffe patch birders in the last last 2-3 days include whimbrel, ringed plover and a rather late fieldfare.

Jon (thanks to Dan for the photos)