Witton Bridge 4/4/2017

Initially chilly and overcast turning to bright sunshine

A good turnout of TT Birders assembled at the Witton Bridge car park a little worried by the overcast, slightly chilly and breezy weather and the accuracy of local weather forecast.  These latter concerns proved to be unfounded as the morning wore on, and with sightings of great tits and blue tits, a reed bunting and two jays from the car park, the distinctive song of chiffchaff and the yaffle of a nearby but invisible green woodpecker any residual pessimism quickly evaporated.

Taking the paved footpath alongside Witton Mill Meadow the promising calls of chiffchaff, nuthatch and song thrush were heard and in Witton Brook a small collection of teal, mallard, coot and moorhen were spotted. The group assembled on Butterfinch Bridge over the Forge Brook eagerly searching for the elusive water rail but no luck …… yet! Up to Haydn’s Pool and for once the location yielded riches – as well as teal, mallard, lapwings and a handful of black-headed gulls, the group were treated to a common sandpiper, snipe, a little ringed plover (challengingly camouflaged on the shoreline), a resting buzzard in a tree and a few early season sand martins jinking above the pool.  Invigorated by this success, the group then spotted a blackcap on the return down the access path (it having been spotted briefly by one group member earlier).

Back to Butterfinch Bridge and this time, bingo! Fully illuminated by bright sunshine so everyone could enjoy their plumage, a chaffinch, a long-tailed tit, a chiffchaff, a bullfinch and a songthrush. And then an eagle-eyed member spotted the water rail skulking about in Forge Brook long enough for a good sighting by all.

With difficulty, the group detached itself from the bridge and walked around to the hide Neumann’s Flash to take in tufted duck, mute swans, Canada geese, shelduck, coots, mallard and a greated crested grebe on the water and more sand martins flying above. Some members picked up reed bunting flitting across the nearby reeds. Walking clockwise along the footpath around the Flash visiting each hide, long-tailed tits, lapwing and cormorant were spotted and possibly/arguably a swallow, the first of the summer. Then another treat, clear views of a chiffchaff and of a willow warbler (another summer first?) singing with gusto.  A final look at the Flash from the new hide built at the end of the spit on the Flash’s southern edge revealed shoveler and gadwall and a grey heron on the far shore.

The final leg of the morning back to the car park was interrupted by a flock of curlew flying southwards overhead which resulted in a scramble over the ditch and up the bank to look out over Ashton’s Flash where, sure enough, a much larger flock (100+) of curlew congregated. A quick climb to the viewpoint over the flash close to the car park also revealed a lone greylag goose, a pair of little grebe and a lesser black-backed gull amid a larger group of black-headed gulls. A good end to a thoroughly productive and enjoyable spring morning! (SC)

Bird list (MH)

  1. Great tit
  2. Blue tit
  3. Mallard
  4. Carrion crow
  5. Chiffchaff
  6. Wood pigeon
  7. Green woodpecker
  8. Blackbird
  9. Jay
  10. Song thrush
  11. Goldfinch
  12. Long-tailed tit
  13. Common sandpiper
  14. Lapwing
  15. Teal
  16. Snipe
  17. Black- headed gull
  18. Sand martin
  19. Buzzard
  20. Little ringed plover
  21. Coot
  22. Chaffinch
  23. Blackcap
  24. Nuthatch (H)
  25. Water rail
  26. Bullfinch
  27. Canada goose
  28. Tufted duck
  29. Moorhen
  30. Great crested grebe
  31. Magpie
  32. Shelduck
  33. Mute swan
  34. Reed bunting
  35. Cormorant
  36. Barn swallow
  37. Dunnock
  38. Willow warbler
  39. Grey heron
  40. Jackdaw
  41. Robin
  42. Shoveler
  43. Little grebe
  44. Gadwall
  45. Curlew
  46. Starling
  47. Greylag goose
  48. Feral pigeon
  49. Lesser black- backed gull
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