A good afternoon’s birding or, how I was proved wrong yet again (twice)!

OK, not an afternoon of birding, but a couple of hours at Daventry Country Park on a grey, chilly and blustery Saturday afternoon.  It was the one afternoon when rain wasn’t forecast though, so I thought I would go and check on my terns (more on those in another blog post).  I also hoped to hear the sedge warbler that I heard last weekend (the first time I have heard one at the Country Park).

After the excitement of Brandon Marsh, I was prepared for a quiet couple of hours watching the terns go by.  And, by and large that’s what I got.  Most of the black-headed gulls have gone (taking the Little Gulls that I missed last week with them) but there is a flotilla of Lesser Black Backed and Herring gulls at the far end of the water.  Most of the ducks have gone too (although I did see some teal last week) and the cormorants are much reduced in number (down to just five or six from ten times that number in the winter).

I spent most of  my time watching the terns, but having house martins and swallows zooming by, and twittering up high.  I got some really good views again through my scope.  Following my last blog when I mentioned that Brandon Marsh was the only place that I saw sand martins, I now have to make a retraction, because I saw at least one in the groups dashing about above the water.  It definitely didn’t have the white rump, was smaller than the swallows and was a lovely warm brown when it turned to flash the upper side of its wings into the sunlight – noticeable different to the smart midnight blue of the house martins and swallows.  A new for me on my local patch.

It was whilst I was watching these that I happened to notice a very yellow looking bird flapping about along the dam.  It looked like a wagtail, but it moved to fast for me to find it in my bins.  Then I saw three yellow birds on the path – they were so yellow that I thought at first they were yellowhammers – but they were scared away by some children pedalling towards them before I could get a good look.  They looked and sounded like wagtails though – probably grey wagtails as I’d seen these on quite a few occasions at the Country Park.

I also fancied I heard a skylark in the distance so I thought I would have a look around the fields on the south side of the water (and also see if I could see the wagtails along the dam).  No joy on the wagtails, but I did hear something singing in the distance that could be a skylark – I hope so.  I heard another call coming from the fields that was unfamiliar – then I saw a yellow bird fly upwards and back down into the crops – yellowhammer?  I stood watching for a while, then the yellow bird flew up out of the field.  I was in luck – it landed at the top of a tree near the path and didn’t fly off when I came close.  I got a good look, definitely a wagtail – long tail, but very yellow underneath, long black legs, olive-green on top and with an olive eye stripe.  I was hopeful that this might be a yellow wagtail.  I checked the RSPB website when I got home, which also has a recording of its call which I listened to for quite a while when stood under the tree.  It was definitely a yellow wagtail – a lifetime first for me and in my local patch as well!  How cool is that.

On my way back home I bumped into a lady who asked me if I had seen anything interesting.   We chatted about the tern rafts and I mentioned that the swifts would be back soon – I usually see the first ones about the 5th or 6th May.  WRONG!  I was wandering out of the Country Park and looked up to see 22 swifts coming over the trees (yes, I did count them).  I am hopeful this means that warm weather is on its way!

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