Eakring Birds 2012
A monthly review
There could only be one candidate for the best bird of the month, with the discovery of a Raven in fields near the Kersall end of Eakring Meadows. Present from 14-17th (and probably several days earlier) it fed on the carcass of a Fox. Although it was never viewable at close range, it would usually return to its food supply after some time, but when flushed, would always fly into trees at the top of the field or out of site.
The rest of January was quiet. There were no real large numbers of wintering thrushes anywhere, although regular sites such as Tug Bridge Farm and Eakring Flash held small groups, but numbers of Goldcrest and Coal Tit, seemed above normal in Lound Wood. Up to 100 Linnet were in fields near Kersall and 25 Siskin fed in the Alders along The Beck at Eakring Meadows (both 15th).

The very dry conditions that remained from the Summer and Autumn of 2011, meant that the pool on Penny Pasture Common was always completely dry, something never seen before in any Winter since 1997. Dry ground, coupled with sedge cutting in the other normally productive areas of Eakring Meadows, meant that a single Common Snipe at Eakring Flash on 28th, was the only one recorded during the month

Unusual wildfowl records at Eakring Flash included a drake Tufted Duck and two Shoveler (26th) with three Shoveler there on the 28th.
Limited cold weather migration over the area following overnight snow across much of the UK, with a movement of 225 Sky Lark south on 5th. Several large groups were noted, but seeing conditions were hampered by fog and much of the day's movement, had probably occurred before arrival on site.

The same morning saw a group of eight Pink-footed Geese fly east over Lound Wood and Eakring Flash showed a welcome improvement in attracting wildfowl with records of four Wigeon and 29 Teal (1st) and three Pochard (28th). During the very cold spell of weather, up to 140 Mallard helped keep varying areas of water free of ice. A pair of Goosander on the 1st, preceded further records of five (four females and a drake) on the 2nd and then a female on the 15th. Two Shelduck appeared on several dates.

The freezing conditions mid-month, caused numbers of Woodcock to leave the near Continent and reach the UK. Two were flushed from Eakring Flash on 11th, while the only other wader record, were the 17 Lapwing south and south-west on the snowy February 5th.

Early in the month, a Linnet flock in fields around Eakring Flash had peaked at a very healthy 250 birds by the 4th. By the end of the month, the traditional early signs of pre-migratory Fieldfare and Starling movement had begun, with good counts (though not site records) of 1,000 Fieldfare and 450 Starling near Eakring village. The first Pied Wagtail and Meadow Pipit of the Spring flew north-west on 29th, when a male Peregrine was also in the area.

  Rather typically, March livened up and went on to produce several patch rarities with two records concerning three Red Kites. Personally, the best bird had to be a Long-eared Owl, that sat out in the open and allowed the rare opportunity of a few photographs.

March's last day went on to become the best day of the month, but it wasn't without a few highlights from the opening day. Eakring Flash used to attract them regularly, but recent years have seen Tufted Duck become tricky to get on the year list. March is traditionally the best month here and after five at Eakring Flash on March 1st, counts continued to vary, reaching record counts of 11 on 22nd and then 12 on 31st.

Four Shelduck remained ever present throughout March, being recorded from Eakring Flash, Tug Bridge Farm and Penny Pasture Common, but a drake Shoveler (29th) was the best of the month's wildfowl. One or two Little Grebe were heard calling from an inaccessible pond at Kersall (23rd) which is just about the only site the can be found in the area now.

A male Merlin appeared at Eakring Flash on the 3rd, briefly alighting in a roadside tree before flying off west over Red Hill. A chance visit to the area on 21st, was rewarded by two Red Kite. Initially the birds were over Eakring village, then drifted low east over Tug Bridge Farm, Eakring Meadows and then Kersall village, between 12:20h and 12:50h. One was wing-tagged white on both wings, indicating that it was tagged at Rutland in 2002. Amazingly another bird was seen in the Red Hill area on 31st. The fine weather for much of March produced some definite migrant Common Buzzards through and these are always difficult to determine from local birds, but certainly a total of 12 in area on 22nd, consisted mostly of migrants moving east.

Two records of Water Rail at Eakring Flash, were the first of the year, with a single bird flushed from the southern-end of the flash (7th), preceding two there on 29th.

A Barn Owl was reported as showing in daylight at Penny Pasture Common on 28th and was doing the same on the morning of the 29th. The bird had an injured right wing, but seemingly could fly and hunt OK, but it was never seen again. A search for it on March 31st, produced a stunning Long-eared Owl, made even more remarkable because the bird was sat on the wire fence, completely out in the open at Penny Pasture Common. This was obviously a migrant bird, as resident Long-eared Owls have always roosted in dense cover here. It was seen to fly off further down Eakring Meadows, using the banks of The Beck as cover and was never relocated.

Winter thrushes remained in the area and in variable numbers. Redwing were often difficult to find and the few counts made were all small. The best of the Fieldfare counts included 238 (1st) 183 (28th) and 460 on 29th. Chiffchaffs were the first of the Summer migrants to arrive into the area from the 22nd, when ten singing males were located. A Wheatear was found near Wellow (31st) and the only White Wagtail noted, flew north-west over Eakring Flash two days. There were two very welcome Common Crossbill records, with four south-east over Eakring Flash on the 3rd and eight north over the same site on 31st.

  The fine weather of March ended abruptly in April, when the winds became predominantly north-easterly for lengthy periods and a series of weather systems brought with them a lot of rain. A great deal of time and effort was put into covering the area and rewarded by a series of welcome records.

With northward migration impossible, or at least halted for a few weeks, for many Summer migrants, Ring Ouzel was one of the few migrants to battle against the weather. Higher than normal numbers were recorded at many UK sites and Eakring scored with a total of four birds.

The first was one flying north-west over Eakring village and then over Red Hill on April 1st, followed about a week later by another moving high north over Eakring Flash on 7th, then one at Lound Wood, which later flew into dense cover at Eakring village and was not seen again on 21st. A male was found along a hedgerow at Leyfields/Eakring Flash from 28th and remained for well over a week into May. Just as many Summer migrants were held up from arriving by the weather, Winter migrants found it impossible to leave. A group of 12 Fieldfare remained at Penny Pasture Common throughout, having missed a brief window of opportunity to migrate. Earlier in the month (6th) at least 60 had been present, along with a few late Redwing. Another late record was a Jack Snipe found with three Common Snipe at Eakring Meadows on 6th, only the second April record here.

Several Summer migrants produced new latest arrival dates thanks to the weather. Sand Martin, Yellow Wagtail, Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat were all late and numbers of Sand Martin and other hirundines was worryingly low, even by the end of April. A very welcome male Cuckoo held territory in the Leyfields/Lound Wood areas from 26th until early May at least and Grasshopper Warblers arrived pretty much on time, with males between Eakring Flash and Lound wood on 19th and at Penny Pasture Common from 20th-23rd. Other first dates included Blackcap and Willow Warbler on 7th, Swallow (8th) Yellow Wagtail (18th) Sand Martin and Lesser Whitethroat (20th) House Martin (23rd) Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat (26th) and Swift (27th).

April proved to be quite poor for raptors, but an Osprey was reported flying over Kneesall early morning of the 7th. Single Peregrine were recorded on two dates, with one over Eakring Meadows, then north-east over Hare Hill Wood on 8th, before another over Lound Wood on 18th. Two Hobby included single birds flying low south-east over Eakring Flash (27th) and another north over Eakring Flash (30th).

The north-easterly winds and rain were perfect conditions for tern and wader passage, but the first Arctic Terns seen here since 2006, were three moving north-east on a gloriously sunny April 30th. This short break in the weather saw a record arrival/fall of Wheatear at three sites in the area. The total of 21 birds included ten (seven females and three males) near a temporary flash pool at Leyfields Farm, nine (four females and five males) at Penny Pasture Common and a male and female in horse paddocks at Ryall's Farm, Eakring village. Several birds of the Greenland race made up part of the Penny Pasture Common total. Preceding the arrival/fall was a single male Wheatear at Penny Pasture Common 23rd, with a Redstart also present there from 20th-22nd. Penny Pasture Common also produced a White Wagtail on 21st, with another north-west over Eakring Flash on 29th.

With visible migration generally poor throughout the month, an unexpected highlight came with two Hawfinch moving high south-east over the Red Hill watchpoint on April 20th.

Monthly reviews