I am delighted to report that despite the very wet weather and the extremely cold winds of April, spring bird migration was ahead of schedule. The warm days around the middle of the month, brought mainly by strong southerly winds, saw hundreds of birds arrive or pass through the area. Sand martins were the earliest, followed by the occasional swallow and a few house martins. By the end of the month, lots of house martins were seen around Church Walks and the Pit, although there are fewer swallows than usual. Chiff chaffs could be heard everywhere by the middle of April and I’m pleased to report that several rare willow warblers could be heard both at Hockenhull and at The Pit. Sedge warblers and reed buntings followed with the wonderful sight of a fall of wheatear, at least ten on one field, with some exciting close up views of these special birds sitting in a hedgerow, which I was able to capture with my camera.
In our garden the most prominent singing birds have been nesting dunnock, robins and wrens, with regular visits on our bird feeders by both gold and green finches. House sparrows are seen every day, but are scarce in other areas of the village. Black caps have been reported throughout the villages, with at least six singing males at Hockenhull. Blackbirds, and both song and mistle thrushes have competed for the title of being the best song bird, with the song thrush probably winning on points.
The warm weather brought the first sightings of butterflies, with many peacocks and small tortoishell joining the bright yellow brimstones of late March. Orange tips were seen at the end of April, usually alighting on dandelions or lady smock (sometimes called the May flower). Marsh marigolds were in profusion on the reserve at Hockenhull by the middle of the month clearly benefiting from the cutting down of many small willows, and a substantial area of reed bed on the southerly wet meadow. In fact both the meadows are as wet as I’ve ever known them with at least six inches of water covering large sections. I’ve recorded 200mm of rain (almost 8”) in my rain gauge during March & April which is a very high reading, and is the main reason that The Pit is at its highest level for many years, with the overflow in operation for much of the last two months.
The Village Pit Group continue to work extremely hard on the restoration of the bank on the Alms Houses side of the Pit, and it is hoped that the restored area will be turfed by the middle of May. This will enhance an area ruined by the continual over feeding of ducks on the area, with the resulting loss of grass. We have also created new paths to enable people to get closer access to the water. All this work has taken time, but we are grateful for the comments of bystanders, who are beginning to see the improvement we are making in that area. The Pit group would be delighted to welcome any new members who can offer some time to the effort of maintaining this village amenity for the benefit and pleasure of everyone.
Goldfinch nest material
Swallow barn nest
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