April's weather was unseasonably fine & warm apart from a few wet days conveniently over Easter. The rain did bring, however, four Common Scoters to Upper Pen Pond on Easter Monday. This sea duck can migrate overland but a large reservoir is the usual place for resting. These four were comfortable enough and stayed the whole day delighting local birders and were the first in the Park since 1948. Another quartet dropped into Upper Pen Pond a week later: although not so rare four Little Egrets rested in the alders at the back of the pond. Two birds sported the fine elongated plumes or 'aigrettes', by which the family gets its name and for which they were hunted almost to extinction at the end of the 19th century, just so that their feathers could decorate ladies' hats. Protest against the trade in plumes led to the formation of the RSPB and the Audubon Societies in the USA.
The Friend's spring walk on the 18th produced the first Hobby and Yellow Wagtail of the year; a feeding flock of late Redpolls (will they stay to breed?); the Park's only two singing Meadow Pipits and only pair of Stonechats; a singing Willow Warbler and the usual Little Owl, trying to secrete itself amongst foliage. For yet another year Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers proved elusive.
Upper Pen Pond hosted another five Great Crested Grebes as well as the nesting pair on the 23rd. The Little Grebes were last seen mid-month, so yet again it seems they have failed to stay and nest.
Summer migrants continued to arrive with the 'firsts' on the following dates: Willow Warbler, a good passage from the 7th; Whitethroat– 17th and an arrival of 7 in the enclosures around Conduit Wood on the 25th; Reed Warbler – 18th; Swift– 24th; Lesser Whitethroat – 25th; a silent Cuckoo on the 25th and a vocal one the next evening and rarest of all of these, a Tree Pipit, by the gorse enclosures on the 21st. This species has become increasingly rare in the Park since it was a common breeder in the 1960s. Buzzards flew over on the 13th, 23rd (two), 24th and 28th and a Peregrine powered over on the 25th.
In May, amongst the Park's many breeding birds, the Skylarks will be prone to disturbance from walkers and dogs. In order to reduce risk of harming this ground-nesting species it is hoped visitors will observe signs and keep to paths and avoid straying into long grass in the larger open areas of the Park. Young Tawny Owls may be encountered on the ground, seemingly helpless but with a parent probably close at hand. If it seems to be in a vulnerable position, carefully place it in a tree close by and if possible let a Park official know. Please do not take it home.
Jan Wilczur, April 2009