April 2005

On Saturday 2 April the drake ring-necked duck remained on Portbury Wharf old pool. The area is being developed into a nature reserve, with new pools and scapes being built. Should be good for waders in the near future. The hedgerows were alive with willow warblers and chiffchaffs. At Chew Valley Lake there were 5 sand martins, 3 swallows, a female scaup, at least 60 goldeneye and a female goosander. A beautiful water pipit moulting into summer plumage fed close to Stratford hide.

drake ring-necked duckwater pipit

On April 8 I helped Jon Flanders radio tag some greater horseshoe bats at Corfe Castle, and saw 130 waxwings at Keynsham Community Forest en route. By the next day 50 remained, and two groups of 25 flew off strongly to the NE. Probably the last chance to see them this spring, and I took some photos of them against the spring greenery. Saw a small flock of dark-bellied brent geese at Studland beach.



Between April14-20 I was in Switzerland, giving talks at the Universities of Zurich and Bern. In Zurich I saw a red kite. On train trips interesting birds included black kites and red crested pochards. In Bern I was hosted by Raphael Arlettaz, an old friend who is now Professor of Conservation Biology there. Raphael runs projects on hoopoe and wryneck populations in Valais. He encourages hoopoes to nest in nextboxes hidden in sheds, and has increased the numbers of birds in their last stronghold in Switzerland considerably. Switzerland has experienced considerable problems with agricultural intensification, and as in Britain many bird species have declined in numbers. Raphael also showed me an incubating eagle owl, and we heard singing blue rock thrushes in Valais.

hoopoe at nest holehoopoe


Crag martins were widespread, and a few swifts passed through in dreadful weather. We saw a migrating marsh harrier, and I photographed my first ROCK BUNTINGS. Tree sparrows are still widespread in the lowlands, and several migrating redstarts were passing through.

rock buntingredstart

As we gained altitude we saw migrating hen harrier and hobby, a golden eagle, alpine accentors and a male ring ouzel of the subspecies alpestris.

alpine accentorring ouzel male, subspecies alpestris

We spent one morning in the mountain valleys above Sion. We saw choughs, alpine choughs, citril finches, peregrine, ibex and chamois.


For me, the highlight was watching a WALLCREEPER and one of the reintroduced BEARDED VULTURES from the road, looking down into a huge ravine. The vulture was a bird in its fourth calender year, and the species should begin breeding in Switzerland once more very soon.

bearded vulture

On 23 April I saw a drake garganey, 3 little gulls, a common tern and my first swifts and reed warblers (heard) of the year in the UK at Chew.

The month ended with a trip to the Somerset Levels, with ca. 40 whimbrel and 2 hobbies at Catcott. Saw an excellent pair of yellow wagtails on Tealham Moor, and saw hobby, whitethroats, red-crested pochard and heard cuckoo and sedge warbler at Meare Heath. At Chew on return saw 3 black terns from Heron's Green car park, and the 3 white terns they were associating with were identified by others as Arctic terns. The Meare red-crested pochard's identity is being debated. Is it the same bird that was at Chew, which was reckoned to be a pochard x red-crested pochard hybrid? Follow this link for some photos.