13th March 2016
A particularly busy weekend meant that it was around three o'clock before I got down to Whitlingham to carry out the March wildfowl counts. It was still bright, but with a chilly breeze. Starting as always with the Little Broad I heard a few Siskins flying about nearby, and located a singing Treecreeper. It showed well, although as usual the branches and catkins meant I struggled to get an unobscurred photo before it spiralled out of sight.
Reaching the slipway I happened to look up and saw a bird of prey overhead. Earlier in the day a Marsh Harrier had been photographed heading along Prince of Wales road, so I thought it could be that, but a better look showed that it was a Buzzard. It was circling above the visitors' barn, and in fact was still circling a couple of hours later as I finished the count. A quick scan revealed no colour-ringed gulls, but I did spend a bit of time looking at the plumage of the Common Gulls.
Only one Egyptian Goose was present (and that on the meadow opposite the CP rather than on the Great Broad), suggesting that the females are incubating. A selection of species and the equivalent count last year [in brackets] are listed below:
- Mallard 47 
- Gadwall 23 
- Tufted Duck 121 
- Pochard 6 
- Coot 29 
- Cormorant 12 
- Black-headed Gull 365 
As you can see from the figures, whilst duck numbers seemed low at the time, the wintering species are actually more numerous than this time last year. Mallard numbers are level, whilst for some reason Black-headed Gull numbers have held from February (c390) whilst last year there was a strong drop-off from 410 in February to 159 in March.
If I had heard a singing Chiffchaff today it would have equalled my earliest patch record, but I didn't. There was no sign of other early arrivers such as Sand Martin or Little Ringed Plover either, but it shouldn't be too long now...