March can be a frustrating month here. With spring migration getting underway, most sites report new birds arriving from around the middle of the month. However, the habitat here doesn’t suit many of the early migrants, and we often have to wait until April to see our first ones. Despite the lack of migrants, March did prove to be a good birding month here, with four major highlights. Firstly, on March 5th a siskin was seen on a bird feeder near the New River Studio. Although a common bird nationally, this species is very scarce here, usually only being seen as an occasional flyover on autumn migration. On the 14th, a red kite (above) flew low over the site, and was soon spotted by some carrion crows which chased it off. Keen skywatchers can see this species passing over very high up reasonably often, but it is more unusual to get good views. Another raptor vs corvid encounter provided the third of the months big highlights, when a raven was seen overhead on the 23rd, sparring with a sparrowhawk. This large corvid is being seen more often in London in the last few years, with a pair reportedly trying to breed only about five miles away in the Lee Valley. It was the first record here since 2009. The last of the major highlights was a skylark seen on the ground on the 31st, another species which is only very occasional here even as a flyover.
For wildfowl, March followed the same pattern as most years, with shelduck and teal being regular all month, but shoveler and red-crested pochard only being occasional visitors. This winter has been an excellent one for snipe. Numbers of common snipe (below) were in double figures for most of the month although were appeared to be down to a handful at the end of the month. The jack snipe which has probably been here all winter was seen a few times in the first half of the month.
It was a good month for great black-backed gulls, with a second winter bird (below, towering over a lesser black-backed gull) being seen on the 17th, and two sightings of an adult pair on the 4th and 19th.
Both water rail and kingfisher were seen only occasionally early in the month and may not be seen again now until winter. The situation was identical for the winter thrushes, redwing and fieldfare. Reed bunting sightings continued to increase, to the point where they were an everyday bird by the end of the month. A lesser redpoll was seen feeding in birch on the 24th. Notable flyover sightings in March were two jackdaws on the 12th, and meadow pipits on-and-off all month. One meadow pipit was even seen on the ground on the 19th.
The total number of bird species seen here in March 2021 was 67. This is slightly up on the average for the previous four Marches of 65.
[Photos by Chris Farthing]