Spring migrants are like buses

Hello birdwatchers

Spring migrants are like buses this year – one minute you can’t find one and then they all come at once!

It has been a fantastic couple of weeks in the world of birds. Chiffchaffs and willow warblers are just about getting settled; blackcaps seem to be paired and looking for nest sites and whitethroats arrived earlier last week.

Today I had a bumper spring birdwatching day although the weather was rather dull and overcast.

Apart from one last indoor class on 9th April, all Start Birding evening classes have now moved outdoors. I look forward to many wonderful spring and summer evening walks until indoor classes start again in September.

So far in April we’ve visited Harewood Estate to watch red kites, tawny owls and roding woodcock; the Leeds and Liverpool Canal to practise our bird songs and calls; Kirkstall Abbey and Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve to look for spring migrants, and RSPB Fairburn Ings to find garganey and cuckoo. At the weekends we have visited Skipwith Common; Bretton Country Park and Spurn Point.

Wheatear at Spurn Point
Avocet at Kilnsea Wetlands, near Spurn Point
Female reed bunting at Skipwith Common
Grass snake basking in the sun at Skipwith Common

Frogs at Skipwith Common

Grey wagtail at Bretton Country Park

Tuesday morning classes have continued with trips to Knotford Nook; Rodley Nature Reserve; Roundhay Park and Meanwood Valley.

Water rail on the River Aire from Rodley Nature Reserve

On Tuesday 16th April, I gave a short talk to the Friends of Middleton Park and I’ll be leading a 2 hour birdwatching class there on Sunday 12th May from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Survey season has started and so far I’ve participated in the survey of RSPB St Aidan’s and completed the first visit of one of my BTO Breeding Bird Survey squares. This will continue over the next few weeks.

May is always an exciting month for birders and this month is no exception. We have finally heard the news that RSPB St Aidan’s will open on Saturday 25th May after a long delay. An interim visitor centre has been erected and birdwatchers will now be able to enjoy an uninterrupted birding feast from Swillington to Fairburn. No more looking through a mesh fence like a child peering through a sweetie shop window. Last week I watched a bittern flying full length of the reserve while doing the survey and I look forward to sharing the reserve with you when I lead a birdwatching class there on Tuesday 11th June. Please call to book as places are limited.

That’s it for now as it is a busy time for birders. I find it hard to find the motivation to be indoors writing blogs when there are many more daylight hours to explore the wildlife of Leeds. Please contact me with your sightings, including any sightings of winter species that are still lingering in and around Leeds (yes those waxwings have been seen right up to the end of April) and I hope to see you soon on one of my trips.

I leave you with photos of more birds seen recently at Rodley Nature Reserve. Rodley is open on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Female bullfinch

Male bullfinch



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