FRIDAY 01 APRIL
Although the forecasted temperatures of 20 degrees C did not materialise, the winds did veer more to the Southwest and were unusually strong for this time of year. It was fairly mild - and dry - but the blustery conditions that prevailed over much of the day did somewhat restrict searching for small passerines.
I had originally planned to have a comprehensive search for migrants, especially in Bedfordshire, where I was hoping to connect with Swallow, White Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail, Common Tern and other early arrivals but that all went pear-shaped when I received a call to say that a medium-sized petrel was on view in Berkshire and its identification was not certain.....
CAINHOE PITS (BEDFORDSHIRE) (TL 096 377)
Having only seen the drake GARGANEY of suspect origin at Blunham Pit this year in Bedfordshire, I was keen to see Peter's pair that he discovered at Cainhoe West Pit this morning. Despite arriving on site late morning, the two birds were nowhere to be found, neither on the west pit or the more suitable reed-fringed pit to the southeast.
I did see a single drake COMMON SHELDUCK, 4 Common Teal and 27 Tufted Duck, along with a pair of Great Crested Grebes and 1-2 OYSTERCATCHERS and newly arrived migrants in the form of 15 SAND MARTINS and 2 singing male Common Chiffchaffs. A small group of 5 FIELDFARE flew east.
ROOKERY PIT SOUTH (BEDS)
(This premier site is accessed from the Millbrook to Mill End road at TL 023 403, with observation best performed from the pit edge close to the Jackdaw Railway Bridge in the SE corner at TL 020 403)
Not quite as productive as of late with just 3 ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWITS remaining, 11 Common Redshank and a pair of LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS (actively displaying) present. On the ever-diminishing water of the main pit were 6 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Little Grebes, 10 Mute Swans (including 7 first-summers), 4 Common Teal and 76 Coots, with 5 Common Gulls resting and the hedgerow just north of the bridge harbouring a male Common Chiffchaff and singing male Blackcap.
STEWARTBY LAKE (BEDS)
Very quiet with none of the hoped for hirundines and just the single OYSTERCATCHER on the sailing club green
Just as I was about to move on to check the pits on the Ouse Valley, I was made aware of a petrel species that was being watched on Theale Gravel Pits in West Berkshire. Initially I believed it may be an April Fool's Joke, as inland petrel records in late March/early April are virtually unprecedented in Britain, but after discussing the bird with several Berkshire birders that had been told about the bird and had already arrived on site, the fact that it looked like a LEACH'S PETREL made it even more remarkable. In any case, this was a bird far too rare to miss, and knowing that previous Band-rumped Petrel occurrences have been in early April, I made a hasty retreat from central Beds and made my way back to the M1....
Lee G R Evans