Sunday 24 March 2013

Winter Wheatear

It was cold this morning. Snow covered the ground and a cold wind blew out of the east bringing more snow with it. Normally, much of my regular walk around my local patch of Henlow Grange is in the lee of the trees alongside Poppy Hill fishing lakes but today there was no protection from the wind and the birds were sparse. Signs of spring noted earlier in the month were no longer in evidence: the Great Crested Grebe nest was a flooded mat of rotting vegetation and nothing was singing. It has been a month since I have added a species to my patch list (Pochard on 23 Feb) and  I was hoping for some different ducks, possibly a Brambling or,  even more unlikely, a passing Waxwing. But a flock of 40 Linnets in a cabbage crop were the only finches I could find. I paused long enough to count the nests in Poppy Hill rookery, now up to 59 (from 31 last weekend) and caught some movement out of the corner of my eye. A bird was foraging, out of view, in a snow-free plough rut by the track. I was expecting a Yellow Hammer or Corn Bunting, but not a harbinger of spring. The male Wheatear hopped out onto the track, hanging around long enough to allow me to extract the camera and get the above picture, before it flew off north across the fields. Can't help wondering what its fate will be, given the current cold snap is supposed to last for the rest of the week.

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