Birding in the coldest spring for over 50 years

It came as no surprise to me to hear the announcement that this spring has so far been the coldest in over 50 years. I think I’ve worn gloves for most of my classes since the start of my spring programme and I’ve even reverted to full winter gear on more than one occasion.

As for the birds, woodlands and hedgerows have often been silent as birds refuel after a cold night and it has been a challenge to find some of our spring migrants for eager birdwatchers.

As I write this blog, the sun is shining and I’m watching swifts circle around my house. I’ve still not managed to persuade them to nest here but each year they appear more interested in my pseudo colony (CD and old ghetto blaster), which as after almost 3 springs of constant use, is now sounding a little crackly and distorted. I hope they move in before I have to buy a new CD player.

This last month has been my busiest of the year with outdoor walks on Tuesdays, Wednesday, Saturdays and some Sundays. In between I’ve been linking in with local “Friends of” groups around Leeds, and Leeds City Council’s Parks and Countryside, and I’m hoping to have some great things to tell you about that in the near future.

We were blessed with good weather for our annual trip to Suffolk this year, so the spring has had its highlights. With 119 species under our belt after 3 days, we had a lot of great memories to take back with us and some quality birds to brag about when we got home. Here are just a few of the best (well, the ones I managed to photograph).

Hobby at RSPB Lakenheath, Suffolk

Red-footed falcon at RSPB Lakenheath, Suffolk

Egyptian goose at Lackford Lakes (Suffolk Wildlife Trust)

Turtle dove at Lackford Lakes (Suffolk Wildlife Trust)
Little tern at RSPB Minsmere, Suffolk

Spoonbill at RSPB Titchwell, Norfolk

Since then I’ve visited Teesside; Gallows Hill in Otley; Middleton Woods in Ilkley; Breary Marsh and Paul’s Pond in Leeds; RSPB Leighton Moss and YWT Adel Dam. The woodlands have looked spectacular over last couple of weeks. There have been so many more woodland plants than normal and such depth of colour and contrast between the fresh green of ferns coupled with blues, yellows and whites of spring flowers.

Bluebells at Middleton Woods, Ilkley

Last week I attended the official opening of RSPB St Aidan’s reserve which was attended by representatives from Leeds City Council, UK Coal, RSPB and many volunteers and interested parties. It was a rainy day but the downpour abruptly ended with the speeches and we were able to take a stroll around the reserve (not my first but my first official stroll). Black-necked grebes are currently present on the reserve and we could hear cuckoo and bittern quite clearly.

Black-necked grebe at RSPB St Aidan’s

It has been great spending time with local wildlife enthusiasts over the last few days – the Wyke Beck Valley Pride event last Sunday and Monday was particularly enjoyable and it was good meeting the Friends of Gipton Woods in Leeds last night.

I’m just off to Northumberland for a 3 day trip so I’m crossing my fingers that we have good weather.

Watch this space for information about my next trips and enjoy the sun while it lasts.

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