Monday, 23 April 2012

First Nightingales, Cuckoos and friends

Nightingale singing from Sallow scrub near Stone Wood

Last Saturday morning gave me the chance to start my BTO Nightingale survey in the woodlands to the South-West of Shadoxhurst in Tetrad TQ93T. As I cycled from the village down towards the by-way navigating the woods, there wasn't much evidence of any spring migrants to be heard - never mind Nightingales. In particular Blackcaps, an early common spring migrant, seemed absent. Still, the pioneer Nightingales were back in their favourite scrub environment of Blackthorn and Sallow which nestle between the taller Oak and Hornbeam woodland. With the woodland, still largely bare of foliage, Nightingale song seemed to dominate. In truth, I put the number of birds singing at a paltry three.

I then moved on to an adjacent area, once again seemingly alive with Nightingale song. But I put the number of males singing at just three, again. Just as I was feeling despondent at the low number of birds found, I had to make a quick re-calculation as at close-quarters, I briefly watched two pairs of Nightingales squabbling over a territory all from within the same Sallow tree. All four birds were fanning and flicking their tails in a threatening posture, showing off the rufous plumage to great effect. I left feeling rather happy with the memory of seeing four Nightingales together, something I will probably be unable to repeat. I later found one more Nightingale singing from an adjacent wood just outside my tetrad.
I'm sure my next visit will reveal more new arrivals, but for now, I'm reminded of how confined Nightingales are to just small pockets of dense scrub within our woodland environs.

Chifchaff nest building at Stone Wood 

On the perimeters of my tetrad my bird list gained some extra variety. Our first Cuckoo of the year is present and calling - I suspect it's the same bird as last year as it can rarely hit the 'coo' note. Also, two Whitethroats, all three woodpeckers, Stock Dove, Skylarks, Yellowhammers and two Buzzards were never far away.

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