Even Sparrows... Bird watchers


Posted: 10.04.20 in Articles category

I am writing this article during the third week of the countrywide 'lockdown' imposed as a result of the Corona virus pandemic. It's a time when travel is restricted to "essential journeys" and people are prohibited from visiting nature reserves that are now closed to the public. Birdwatchers locally (and presumably across Britain) are spending more time instead watching birds from their gardens, seeing what flies by. It's a good time to do so. April is a key month for spring migration as some birds pass through on passage while others arrive here to spend the summer and breed. There's a good chance of seeing new birds and adding to our garden lists. And of course we keep lists! I have a list of 98 species seen from our house and garden. That's a relatively high total, reflecting both the longevity of our house tenure (25 years) and the good views we have of countryside as well as the sky to scan. Hence I have seen plenty of birds from the garden that haven't flown directly over our property. Barn Owl, Greenshank and Tree Pipit haven't necessarily landed in our garden or passed overhead, but I can tick them off as I have watched them from the garden. My list of 'landed' garden birds is considerably shorter, but bizarrely it includes Nightjar - a juvenile I flushed from the rockery one early autumn day.

Garden listing has taken a strange local twist this spring. A few local birdwatchers have been going out to listen and record the birds flying over at night. As a result they have discovered new and perhaps surprising information about some of the ducks that flock offshore by north west England. It seems that many hundreds if not thousands of Common Scoter which spend the winter in Morecambe Bay migrate nocturnally in March and early April, flying inland and eastwards along the Tyne valley and over Newcastle before they head out across the North Sea. Although they can't be seen in the darkness, they can be clearly heard as they call to each other in flight. Various people I know have now added Common Scoter to their garden lists as a result of hearing them at night. Who would have thought that gardens in Gosforth could boast of having sea duck on their bird lists?!

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