Nellie’s Late Spring Notes

The cold arctic blast continued to chill Claxton with easterly winds from northern Russia.  This delayed spring and postponed the arrival of summer migrants to our village. The spring flowers were late in flowering and tree buds remain dormant. I heard my first chiffchaff of 2013 singing from the tree tops surrounding the pond on the morning of 8th April, perhaps 5 or 6 weeks later than previous years.  There were occasional brimstone butterfly and tortoiseshell in the gardens when the wind was not quite so piercing allowing the April sun to warm the air.

However, the high pressure provided some clear bright days ideal for walks on the marsh and village footpaths. We were very fortunate to have two sightings on 5th and 7th April of a female hen harrier quartering over Claxton Marsh.  These birds occasionally visit Claxton for the winter before returning to the higher moorland for the summer.

The wind changed direction and the temperature rose ~ 14C.  The first flight of Claxton house martins arrived on Saturday 13th April the warm southerly winds encouraging their migratory flight back to our village.  They were joined by two more house martins on Sunday 14th, which were visible hawking over Church Marsh seeking out early insects.  The following day they began to investigate last year’s nests on my home at Birches.  They were soon joined by squadrons of other migratory birds returning to take advantage of the Claxton environment to breed. More chiffchaffs arrived during the week and they could be heard singing their distinctive two tone notes from the high willows around the village.  Perhaps we will be lucky in 2013 and have a nightingale revisit and sing from Ducan’s Marsh as happened so briefly in 2012.

We have seen an increasing number of reed buntings using garden feeders during the winter and early spring.  This change in behaviour has been noted by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) from data collected by its members. This behaviour has been noticeable in Claxton over the last 3 years. These birds move from the fields and marshes as natural sources of seed are depleted, to take advantage of feeders in Claxton gardens.  They are particularly keen on small seed such as white millet.  I recorded 12 reed buntings in the garden on 12th April. By taking advantage of seed feeders these birds should be in good condition for the breeding season, increasing their chances of success.  Unlike the reed buntings, the local yellowhammers are still only occasional visitors to the garden normally being a member of a larger flock of finches.  Perhaps we will also see a change in the behaviour of local yellowhammers moving into gardens to take advantage of feeders.

The highlight of spring must be the return of the Claxton swifts who continue to use the voids beneath the pan tiles of village roofs for nesting.  The first swifts arrived on the early May bank holiday to join the increasing numbers of house martins and swallows. Swifts are the most incredible birds who have truly mastered flight and the ability to travel huge distances. They will fly 500 miles in a day to a good feeding area. So Claxton swifts may travel across the channel to hunt insects in Germany or France to return for an evening’s feeding over Church Marsh.  Look out for them on a warm evening hawking over the village and enjoy their presence as family groups chase each other with their characteristic screams.  The swift carved into our village sign is truly an important symbol for Claxton and its contribution to the conservation of this incredible bird.

We were joined by a red kite for a few days at the end of May. It was a juvenile bird who managed to find a frog or two whilst hunting around the village.  It drifted around houses in The Street providing numerous low level glides and fly passes just above the roof tops.  It roosted in a hedgerow tree in the field at the junction of Folly Lane and The Street on 26th May before moving on to new feeding grounds. A very special bird for all Claxtonians to enjoy.

Enjoy your walks and remember the treats for your canine friends.


June 2013

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