With our office upping sticks and relocating to 'work from home' mode, I left London on 18th and headed back to Lincolnshire. At the time I was thinking that it might just be for a few weeks or so ... how wrong I was.
Prior to lockdown coming in to force on 24 March, I was able to get out and do a bit of birding locally, although weather was generally clear and cold, with an at-times biting north-easterly airflow.
This wasn't exactly optimal for an early rush of migrants, which was a shame after mid-March's big push of Northern Wheatears. That said, there was a fantastic movement of Whooper Swans on 19-20th. This seemed particularly pronounced on the latter date, when I had 233 in six flocks move over Baston & Langtoft Pits (BLGP) in two short sessions, one in the morning and one in the evening. Imagine how many must've moved during the entire day! In the darkness later that evening, some time after 10.30 pm, we had a big flock fly low over the house, audible even inside.
Wildfowl was pretty much the main order of the day(s); late March is a very dynamic time for ducks especially and it was interesting to watch how numbers varied as the days passed. By the end of the month the last Goosanders had departed from local spots, particularly Deeping High Bank but also various pits.
Highlight of the pre-lockdown period, though, was a stunning juvenile Rough-legged Buzzard between Deeping St Nicholas and Deeping High Bank, first found by Jake Williams on the evening of 19th. He watched it gradually moving north-east until it was lost from view, and we all feared it was a migrant that'd never be seen again. But the chilly north-easterly was at least good for something, and that was keeping the buzzard in the area for at least a few days. Mike Weedon and I had some great views on the morning of 20th of this wide-ranging bird. A really pale individual, the head looked almost white at distance, especially when it was sat against the dark of the many tilled fields.
I had one check of the Peterborough gulls on 21st, although it was a bright and blustery day. As usual when conditions are so, the birds were nervy and restless, rarely settling and not really allowing the option for scrutiny.
Probably the best bird I saw at BLGP prior to lockdown was a male Bar-tailed Godwit at lunchtime on 21st. This was all a bit random, being the first March record I'd had at the pits and dropping in on a sunny day. It had gone by mid-afternoon. The bird was just beginning to colour up, with a reasonable amount of brick-red flecking appearing on the breast and belly.
The evening of 22nd was productive, with a female Ruff bearing a lime-coloured leg flag (identifying it as a Norwegian bird; alas I couldn't get close enough to read the lettering) and a winter-plumaged Water Pipit at Wader Pit (alas now not much of a pit for waders, with very high water levels after the winter rains), plus a migrating Short-eared Owl moving at considerable height to the north.
Then, on 23rd – the final day of 'freedom', if you like – I headed to Willow Tree Fen for dawn, with Garganey in mind. It was a stunningly crisp and clear morning, with gorgeous golden light illuminating the scrape. Very satisfying it was, too, to locate a pristine drake Garganey asleep among the mass of Teal and Wigeon. This has always been one of my favourite species, and every encounter is something to be cherished. However, frostbite was soon getting the better of my fingers, so I left fairly quickly – but not before a half-dozen Whooper Swans had moved through and a Eurasian Curlew flew overhead calling.
And then came lockdown ... naturally, birding becomes a luxury at such times and I am blessed that my short daily route can take in at least some of BLGP. So, I'm fortunate that spring is far from totally written off, even if it won't be as bird-filled as it might have been if I'd been able to get out around the Peterborough area during April and May. Any highlights from the short forays that the situation allows will appear here in due course.
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The musings of a wildlife enthusiast, usually armed with his camera.