Thursday, April 30, 2009

Solid rainfall has brought the river back to life but the morning breeze retains a bite until afternoon warming sun. Rain has sharpened visibility, so a thin scimitar of black shows clear against greening woods and white cumulus, first Swift of the year slicing across the breeze. Below, intermittent harsh scratch and rattle of Whitethroat song drifts across stonewalled fields from thorny railway banks.

Out on the breakwater, large parties of sandy-backed Ringed Plover stand amongst boulders, hidden despite bold black and white neckbands; russet, scaly-backed Dunlin mixed in, black bellies of summer just beginning to show. Whimbrel are large, brown wading birds, also hard to spot on the boulder shore, this time accompanied by silver-bellied, straight-billed birds with scaly backs and muted flight pattern of Bar-Tailed Godwit.

Beyond the sandy beach is a long stretch of car-sized rocks, boulders, pebbles and sand. Curved-billed Whimbrel stand profiled against a steely sea, with Godwit mixed in. Lifting binoculars to check, the flock streams out, low over the sea. Scanning to count, a streamlined, powerful bird rockets low across the field of view, at least twice the speed. It overtakes the entire flock, locked directly onto the lead bird which, sensing immanent danger, ditches in the sea. Wings lifted high, it manages to regain the air, but the Peregrine uses its momentum to climb and dive for a second attempt. Another splash takes the Godwit back into the water, wings raised again as the sharp-winged predator passes low overhead.

This time, momentum spent, the Peregrine oars its way in a powered climb over the ditched Godwit before giving up, gaining more height to head shoreward.

Early next the morning, a sibilant trill from the topmost canopy of fresh leaved beech woodland gives first Wood Warbler of the year, heard but not seen.












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