Trip reports

Blackford Pond

Swallow perched on wire fence in Spain
Swallow - RSPB Images

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Saturday sunshine 6am with songbirds, it must be the dawn chorus. Despite the unremitting gloom and icy wind of the previous week 17 optimists assembled at Blackford Pond. A first scan of the pond garnered mute swan, coot, moorhen, Canada goose, tufted duck and lesser black-backed gull with only small numbers in all cases. There were no signs of nesting. With attention turned to the birdsong, song thrush and blackbird were soon recorded. There was a fleeting glimpse of goldfinch and then one of the morning's highpoints. At least two pairs of bullfinch were unfazed by the group and flitted around providing extended viewing highlights. A grey heron flew over and then concentration could be applied to the songsters with robin, dunnock, chiffchaff, wren and chaffinch all quickly identified.

Leaving the pond and walking round the hill to reach the sunshine on the southern side first brought lovely views of a greenfinch picked out amongst new foliage in strong sunlight high in a treetop. The walk then added blackcap, long-tailed tit, great tit, blue tit and willow warbler to the tally. Once down by the burn there was a second chance to watch and hear blackcap at close range and at a greater distance mistle thrush in the field. Most of the expected species had now been heard and sighted so it was time to head up the hill in pursuit of the day's challenge, whitethroat.

On the way up a deer was seen by the leaders. Next up was a buzzard followed by the first swallow and swift of the year for many. Finally a whitethroat was heard and tracked down. Well it was almost a whitethroat as it was missing a tail. Heading for completion of the circuit a hovering kestrel was spotted as well as another whitethroat, complete with tail this time.

The most numerous birds in flight were jackdaws and starlings with occasional sightings of carrion crow and magpie. There was certainly a wood pigeon contribution to the chorus and there may well have been rock dove somewhere. There were rumours of yellowhammer and nuthatch heard but certainly not close by in sharing mode. It is hard to convey in pedestrian text the uplifting experience of surround sound dawn chorus with added visual stimulus. Three hours passed in a flash in the sunshine and some moments may be hard to better in the coming months.

Alex Wight