20th-26th March

Another wind swept week, mostly from the north and west holding up migration. Despite the weather it was an eventful week with some superb avian visitors.

20th – Rain-Wind – Rain…1 Fieldfare at Whitegates

21st – The highlight today was during limited ringing were  two ‘Controls’, a Goldcrest ringed in the UK and a Firecrest ringed in Germany. late afternoon a male Sparrowhawk also ringed at Essex farm.

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Firecrest – (German ring) – Essex farm – photo ABO

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Male Sparrowhawk – Essex Farm – Photo ABO

22nd Desert Wheatear: With the winds so far preventing any ringing for the best part of the beginning of spring, it was time to get out there and find something !  Alderney is proving to be a place where there is a decent chance of turning up something a bit special and this was one of those days. At the North West corner of the island stands Fort Tourgis, adjacent is a large field left fallow this winter. Before heading out assistant warden Justin and I discussed this location as our best bet for finding Wheaters, its one of those locations that just looks good for birds and is well worth a check for migrant Pipits, finches, wagtails and Buntings. As we parked up to scan the field 2 fine male Northern Wheatears were so close to the car we sat and enjoyed them , 3 or 4 other Wheatears were a little further back and one stood out as being particularly pale and worth closer inspection. Scopes set up my first impression of this pale bird was its very round headed appearance, far more Stonechat like than that of a Wheatear, the bird was also sleeker than the Northern Wheatears close by and not as broad chested. It was also constantly tail bobbing, we were on to something ! The bird was very active doing a lot of feeding running about on the ground but very little flying, so we had a frustrating wait trying to see the all important tail pattern. When the bird came closer the pale grey nape was visible against the grey brown mantle and cap, I felt fairly sure we had a Desert Wheatear before us but I’ve never seen one this pale before. Finally after about 45 minutes a Mallard flew low across the field and put up our pale bird along with 3 Northern Wheatears offering us a fine view of the identification clinching tail pattern (with comparisons of ‘the Northerns’ visible at the same time). Some later investigation into the bird suggests it to be the very pale grey and sandy north african race Homochroa. Our island bird list continues to grow (now 293) this was also the first ever spring record of Desert Wheatear for the Channel Islands. Justin returned in the afternoon and took this cracking photo. (see below) It was present the following day though all the Northerns were gone,  but not seen after the 23rd. The ABO Facebook page got over 4,000 hits.

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Desert Wheatear – Tourgis – photo – Justin Hart

Also 22nd our first Whimbrel of the year seen by Justin at Longis bay. And male Gargeney reported from Mannez nature reserve, only the 4th record for the island, but very likely a species under recorded, it was still present 23rd.

23rd – First thing there was the welcome sight of a pair of Shelduck in Longis Bay, possibly the same pair that attempted to breed last year. 1 Firecrest was ringed at Mannez quarry. I went on BBC radio Guernsey to talk about the development of our Obs and Alderney as a growing destination for Wildlife tourism. 1 Swallow and 1 Sand Martin were battling the winds over Longis pond mid afternoon.

24th  – 6 Sand Martins and 1 Swallow at Mannez reserve where 2 Willow Warblers and 1 Firecrest were ringed. 5 Sand Martins and 1 House Martin were in Corbeltts quarry PM

25th –  1 Ringed Plover Platte saline and 20 Linnets at Tourgis. 100+ Meadow Pipits on the golf course.

26th – A very blustery day of east winds brought in several hundred Meadow Pipits with large flocks reported from the Golf course (100+) Longis Common (60) and 50+ at Mannez Garenne. There was some limited ringing in the shelter of Mannez nature reserve but only  handful of birds were processed including 3 Chiffchaffs. Justin reports 5 Sand Martin and our first Tree Pipit of the year from Longis reserve this afternoon.

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