4th May

A flat calm, bright dawn after a clear night didn't bode well so the variety quickly encountered was a welcome surprise even if numbers fell short of what's been on offer so often just lately. An overflying Serin was the chief prize at the Bill, where amongst the 75 Willow Warblers and 50 Wheatears there were small numbers of nearly everything else that might be expected in early May - a Grasshopper Warbler and one of the very few Goldcrests this spring were perhaps the pick of this back-up selection. Waders featured again in fair numbers, including 65 Dunlin, 35 Bar-tailed Godwits, 3 Sanderling, 2 Whimbrel and a Common Sandpiper at Ferrybridge. Visible passage included a few pulses of Swallows but numbers weren't what might have been expected given the conditions. The fact that not a single skua was logged - that can't have happened very often on this date - spoke volumes for the continuing dire sea situation, with 60 Common Scoter, 4 Red-throated Divers and 2 Great Northern Divers an inconsequential return from the Bill.

The Serin passing over the Obs garden this morning:

We don't fully understand where our migrant Goldcrests hail from but the ringing recoveries suggest at least as far north and east as Scandinavia and Poland; what we're particularly uncertain of is the degree to which birds from nearer to home pass through on passage. What we can say with certainty is that wherever they come from either they're doing extremely badly or they've had a sudden and profound change in their migratory habits: for us to have only trapped and ringed two last autumn and two this spring puts these seasons on a par with 1963 when, in the aftermath of the savage '62-'63 winter that presumably killed off a large percentage of these migrants in their western European wintering areas, none were ringed (our usual annual ringing total runs well into the hundreds). What's the explanation? - frankly, we haven't got a clue: surely recent European winters haven't been harsh enough to decimate these migratory populations to this degree but equally it seems improbable that there's been a sudden shift in the bird's winter quarters such that they no longer impinge on us on passage; maybe European winters have actually got so mild that many are staying closer to their natal areas and far fewer are getting over to this part of the world in the first place? © Martin Cade: