Saturday, 7 May 2016

Blackcap Is Back

It was a calm sunny morning on 27 April when we did our monthly bird survey. Just the kind of spring morning midway through the mating season when you might expect to see lots of activity. Instead it was quiet, even along 'the lane' as we call the upper part of Eastern Road where the hawthorns and thick bushes are. We saw two Blackbird pairs and heard plenty of  Wrens singing, as well as occasional bursts of Dunnock song and a Goldfinch. Goldfinches emit a kind of high liquid twittering as they go about the trees, but their song is quite different - fast, chopping and changing, slightly dry.

On the north field, we found a flock of at least 16 Starlings pecking for invertebrates in the grass. But things really improved when we reached the Shade Garden (between bowling green and bothy) where we saw and and heard a male Blackcap - our first of the year - flitting up and down the trees. We heard its fellow spring migrant warbler, the Chiffchaff, singing during March, so this means that both our regular warblers have returned to nest and breed. The male Blackcap has a grey breast and, believe it or not, a black cap which makes it easy to identify. The female has a grey breast and brown cap.

Male Blackcap (Credit: Sandra Palme)

We also saw a Long-tailed Tit in the Shade Garden and a Collared Dove which has soft features, a black ring round its neck and is perhaps the prettiest pigeon on the block. It coos three times, usually with an emphasis on the second coo (U-ni-ted!). Finally, we saw a pair of Mistle Thrushes hopping on the grass in the east field. It's a mystery to me how people don't seem to notice these big bold thrushes with the speckled breasts. Total count: 16 Starlings, 9 Wrens, 6 Robins, 5 Woodpigeons, 3 each of Blue Tit, Crow, Great Tit and House Sparrow, 2 each of Blackbird, Dunnock, Goldfinch, Magpie and Mistle Thrush, 1 each of Blackcap, Collared Dove, Feral Pigeon, Long-tailed Tit and Parakeet. 18 species in total. 

Collared Dove: Hilly Fields