A mix of rar­i­ties and pos­si­ble escapes took the March head­lines, writes by Lee Evans

Bird Watching (UK) - - Gear -

WELL, WITH SOME warm southerly winds mid-month, spring mi­gra­tion started with a rush of mi­grants dur­ing the last week of March, enough to push the cu­mu­la­tive species to­tal to a re­spectable 294 for Bri­tain and Ire­land as we en­tered April. How­ever, this was short-lived, as April saw a real re­turn to win­ter, with freez­ing northerly winds dom­i­nat­ing the air­flow un­til at least the 27th! The un­doubted high­light of the pe­riod un­der re­view was the first-year fe­male Green­land Gyr­fal­con that had been present on North Uist (Outer He­brides) since late last au­tumn. Dur­ing March, an Ice­landic Grey­lag Goose col­lided with over­head wires at Bal­ranald RSPB and died, its corpse at­tract­ing the at­ten­tion of the fal­con. For more than a week, the bird stood guard over its favoured meal, al­low­ing a stream of ob­servers to suc­cess­fully twitch this oth­er­wise ex­tremely dif­fi­cult-to-catch-up-with Arc­tic va­grant. Re­al­is­ing food was run­ning out, en­ter­pris­ing pho­tog­ra­phers then moved a dead Mute Swan car­cass into po­si­tion nearby, much closer to one of the RSPB tracks, with some re­mark­able re­sults. The fal­con very quickly took the bait and for the best part of two weeks, fed to within just 30 yards of ob­servers, af­ford­ing the best views of this for­mi­da­bly beau­ti­ful species that had ever been Lee Evans is the UK’S most well-known and fa­nat­i­cal ‘twitcher’, having recorded 585 species in Bri­tain and Ire­land, 863 in the wider Western Palearc­tic and 386 in just one cal­en­dar year in the UK. He has writ­ten many or­nitho­log­i­cal pub­li­ca­tions and runs nu­mer­ous bird­ing tours through­out the year, in­clud­ing cus­tom-led trips. Visit bbabird­ing.blogspot.co.uk and uk400­clu­brarebird alert. blogspot.co.uk ob­tained in this coun­try. The pho­to­graphic re­sults were sim­ply out-of-this-world – a once-in-al­ife­time op­por­tu­nity to get up-close-and-per­sonal with one of the most enig­matic species of bird that there is. Also em­a­nat­ing from the Arc­tic, was a fine adult Thayer’s Gull that took up res­i­dence at Mins­mere RSPB re­serve (Suf­folk) from 27th-28th March. Al­though typ­i­cally er­ratic in its ap­pear­ances, it vis­ited both the West Scrape and South Lev­els dur­ing its pres­ence, of­ten roost­ing with other large white-headed gulls for up to two hours at a time. This was a first for the county and yet an­other in a long line of re­cent records of this in­creas­ing win­ter va­grant. What would have surely turned out to be the big­gest twitch of the month was, frus­trat­ingly, not to be, af­ter Kent bird recorder Barry Wright re­ceived ex­cel­lent pho­to­graphs of a (Western) Ru­fous Tur­tle Dove that had been win­ter­ing with Wood­pi­geons in gar­dens in Ot­ford, near Sevenoaks (Kent) since 18th Fe­bru­ary. The bird had re­mained present un­til at least 21st March, at which time the res­i­dents of the house went away for a long so­journ. Barry re­ceived the im­ages on 2nd April when sub­se­quent searches proved neg­a­tive, but it just goes to show how many avian trea­sures must go beg­ging in an aver­age year! Spe­cial men­tion must also go to Lady Amherst’s

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