In stark contrast to spring 2020, it's been a bitterly cold April so far, the arrival of spring migrants has largely been a slow and disappointing affair (as always, there have been some exceptions).
At the beginning of the month I bumped into the female Ring-necked Duck at Langtoft West End. It wasn't a great surprise to find it here; presumably it had been lurking in this mature and secluded collection of pits since it disappeared from nearby Tallington in mid-February – although I did look for it here on a couple of occasions in March without success. It went on to linger until the final week of the month, but could be quite elusive and took some finding at times, which made me feel a little less embarrassed about overlooking it for several weeks.
Several local birders came for better views of it at Langtoft (having suffered distant looks at Tallington Main Pit during a freezing gale in February). One of them was Mike Weedon, who remarkably found an adult Kittiwake here on the evening of 3rd. Despite the bird initially disappearing, I relocated it feeding in a hidden corner of the main lake and enjoyed some nice views in the evening sun. Never an easy species to see locally, this was a handy one for the year list.
Despite the cold weather, spring 2021 seemed to be starting quite strongly in the Peterborough area, with a Sandwich Tern the next quality bird to appear. First seen fishing along the River Nene on the afternoon of 4 April, it relocated to Ferry Meadows that evening and, thanks to awful weather overnight, lingered throughout a bitterly cold and breezy 5th. Sandwich Tern is a bit of an early April speciality around here; last year, I had one at BLGP on ... 5 April! In 2018 I had a flock of seven move through on 7th.
It's not often I see Sandwich and Arctic Terns before Common, but 2021 was playing out in bizarre fashion on many levels. That said, my first Commons of the spring were flying around at Tallington Main Lake on 19th, seen just minutes after picking up a single Arctic there. This proved one of the very few days in the month where it felt remotely warm!
Wader passage was slow to pick up, although a group of eight Ruff lingered at Baston Fen for a couple of weeks. The bitter, snowy and windy 5th - Sandwich Tern day - also produced a female Bar-tailed Godwit at BLGP, more closely resembling an ashen rock more than a regal wader as it clung to one of the few remaining tiny islands on the T-junction Pit. The first Whimbrel of the spring appeared on the evening of 16th, quite an early date for the species around here.
With overnight frosts, clear skies and a cold northerly dominating the first few weeks of the month, passerines were thin on the ground. A male Common Redstart at Langdyke's Etton-Maxey reserve on 17th eventually gave great views after a long search – it proved the only gettable individual of the entire month for me. Northern Wheatears were unsurprisingly slow to get going in the conditions, but a few eventually started passing through at BLGP.
So, early April produced a few handy birds for the year, but the quality and quantity was rarely there. With almost nightly frosts, bitter conditions and scant birding reward, it was hardly what you'd brandish a vintage start to the spring.
The musings of a wildlife enthusiast, usually armed with his camera.