We were still in the car park sorting out coats and telescopes when the cry went up, and there it was! Not much more than a dot in the sky until you found it with the binoculars, but then it was unmistakeable with the long, straight wings. What a start to the day!
We were at Far Ings, a Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust reserve almost under the Humber Bridge with a good variety of habitats. A footpath leads along the estuary shore, and just inland is a group of old gravel pits, separated by woodland and grassland with several hides and viewing screens. The weather started grey but steadily improved with more and more blue sky appearing and by mid afternoon coats were being stuffed into bags and there was a real feeling that winter might be over. Paths were still muddy, but all of us have seen plenty worse.
A further bird highlight came with the discovery of a flock of about twenty common scoters off shore. There were chiffchaffs calling everywhere and several Cetti’s warblers shouting from the reeds. These skulk in deep cover and are among the most difficult birds to see, but someone managed a quick glimpse of one. Great crested grebes were displaying, but unfortunately seemed camera shy!
Early insects were also on the wing; we saw small tortoiseshell and peacock butterflies and a good selection of bees looking for nest sites – no fewer than five species of bumblebee, as well as solitary bees. There were very few fungi about but spring flowers were starting to appear; not yet in great numbers, but there was a good variety for people who looked carefully. Obviously most of them were the common ones, including both white and red dead nettles; but we did find the unusual, and very attractive, snake’s head fritillary. We seem to need some people who can recognise some of the more obscure insects; small beetles were crawling round the heads of dandelion and coltsfoot, but we couldn’t put a name to them.
Mammals are always more difficult to see but there were plenty of molehills and later in the afternoon a few rabbits. All in all, a good variety of finds.
It was a happy group that arrived in Rochdale on a sunny evening with the temperature in the mid-teens. Could this be spring at last?