Lade - Lockdown Day 50 - cool, cloudy, n2 - A much better day weather wise as the northerly airflow relented somewhat, but still chilly out of the sun. And so after 50 days the first governmental lockdown of our lifetime is over. From tomorrow we`re permitted unlimited daily exercise and being able to travel further afield to take said exercise; although down here the Dungeness Estate and RSPB reserve will remain closed until further notice pending reviews. While the beach car parks from Lade to Littlestone are accessible the toilets maintained by Folkestone and Hythe District Council remain closed, which from a public health angle is not great.
This afternoon over south lake we had our first Hobby of spring charging about amongst a couple of hundred hirundines and Swifts that had been forced down to feed on emerging insects. It was our 109th and final species of the lockdown period. A Grass Snake basking by the ponds was also a belated first for the year.
When this lockdown started 50 days ago I genuinely thought that spending the entire spring period birding just the local patch would deliver the goods - how wrong I was. In 15 years of birding Lade this spring has been, without doubt, the most disappointing for both variety and numbers of almost all summer migrants.
The following migrants have all been recorded in lower than usual numbers: Hobby, Common Sandpiper, Common and Sandwich Terns, Swift, Sand and House Martins, Swallow, Yellow Wagtail, Reed, Sedge and Willow Warblers.
Migrants that have held steady in number include: Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit, Greenshank, Grey Plover, Cuckoo (2/3 birds only),Wheatear, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Lesser Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler and Firecrest, while only Red Kite and Common Whitethroat have been more numerous than usual. The stand out oddities during the period were: White-tailed Eagle, Short-eared Owl and Woodlark.
Notable by their absence (all of which have been recorded during previous springs here) include: Black-necked Grebe, Garganey, Little Ringed Plover, Turtle Dove (not seen for 3 years), Bee-eater (almost annual), Tree Pipit, Whinchat, Ring Ouzel and Spotted Flycatcher.
So, a pretty depressing, but unsurprising picture of the status of our spring migrants, and one that I`m sure will be replicated elsewhere across the country. Some of it could be put down to the clear, dry weather throughout most of April encouraging nocturnal migrants to continue their journeys, and the unsuitably high water levels on the lakes for waders, but not all.