Chris Farthing's Woodberry Wetlands bird highlights for April 2020
April here is always an interesting month, with passage migrants moving through and our summer visitors returning from their wintering areas to breed here. Although the site remained closed due to the covid-19 epidemic, with the majority of birds singing and much of the action taking place in the air, the list of birds seen through the month was much the same as any other April.
The major highlight of the month was a male wheatear (main picture above) which was seen on the 21st in the large ash tree next to the water inlet. This species is amongst the most eagerly anticipated spring migrants amongst the birding community, and due to lack of suitable habitat here they are probably seen on average less than once a year.
For many of the waterfowl, April was spent sitting on a nest. This was the case for the mute swan pair in the reservoir and the pair in the New River. Ducks, geese, moorhens and coots were also on nests though they won’t all be successful due to the ups and downs in the reservoir water level. Some of our winter-only ducks were still being seen at the start of the month, with a single shelduck present on four days and a teal seen on the 2nd. There was a single sighting of a red-crested pochard on the 15th.
Two wading bird species were seen, with one of our over-wintering snipe staying until at least the 3rd, and one or two common sandpipers (picture 1 below) being seen passing through a few times in late April. We had to wait until April 12th for the first kingfisher of the year, which was surprising considering they had been regular for the last few months of 2019. Sightings of little egret increased in April, with a single bird seen a few times either as a flyover or fishing near the water outlet.
Black-headed gulls have mostly moved on to their breeding grounds so were only seen sporadically through April and with only a single visit from a great black-backed gull on the 12th, most days of April saw only 2 gull species visit (herring gull and lesser black-backed gull).
April was a very good month for raptors not just at Woodberry but over the whole of London. This may just have been because birders spent a good part of lockdown sitting in their gardens or looking out of the window, but we had multiple sightings in the airspace above the reserve of both red kite (2) and common buzzard.
The first of the three common hirundines, sand martin, had arrived in March, but we had to wait until April 19th for the first swallow and the 26th for the first house martin. Swifts were here from the 21st and can now be seen in good numbers given the right weather conditions.
A feature of April is always the return of our breeding warblers. The 8th saw the first of both reed warbler and sedge warbler (3), and both increased in number through the rest of the month. The previous day had seen the first willow warbler (4) of the year pass through.
The two sightings of male ring ouzels on the 9th and 17th would have been major highlights if only they had been more than brief visits, not hanging around long enough for a photo. The same could be said of a yellow wagtail seen on the 13th. Two species which are common nationally but scarcely seen here were a flyover jackdaw on the 2nd and a pair of linnet which were seen briefly on the 22nd.
The total number of bird species seen here in April was 74, very much in line with totals from the previous few Aprils, and beating April 2019 by one.
[Photos by Chris Farthing]