Last weekend saw Jem and I travel to Peterborough for Sheffield Wednesday’s penultimate game of the season. Being an important relegation six-pointer, the match had been chosen by Sky for live coverage in the early evening, which gave us plenty of spare time to check out the sights of the city. After visiting the cathedral and having a nice pub lunch, we’d originally planned to spend the last hour before the match in the museum, but as the weather was nice we instead decided to go for a walk along the River Nene. This brought us an interesting pure white Mallard and a lone Great Crested Grebe on the water, and a bit further along we saw a Green Woodpecker fly into a small patch of woodland. All of a sudden about a dozen pigeons scattered across the sky in different directions and we soon found the reason: a Sparrowhawk soaring overhead. Several warblers were also to be found in a small tree. At least two male Blackcaps, and a pair of little brown jobs which we struggled to identify with any confidence, although I’m fairly certain they were either Chiffchaffs or Willow Warblers (they weren’t making any sound). Wednesday played poorly and lost 1-0, and there was also quite a bit of nastiness on the terrace amongst our supporters, so it wasn’t a match to remember. Luckily, a fine win the following weekend ensured our safety, and Peterborough ended up being relegated – which makes their fans’ post-match pitch invasion the previous week look decidedly premature.
The Sunday saw us give Wormwood Scrubs another try. Again, we struggled to find anything that really excited us. It was windy again, cloudy and cool, and the best we managed was a nice hunting Kestrel and Jem saw a Whitethroat. We also got a brief glimpse of something else in a bush – possibly a Reed Bunting – but it was facing away from us and was just too far away for a positive identification. We shall return to the Scrubs again as we know it’s a great place for urban birding, it just hasn’t been kind to us yet…
This past weekend was the May Bank Holiday, and Jem and I made the most of it. We started our birding by getting up at 5.40am to catch the final throes of the dawn chorus on Wimbledon Common. Jem thinks she might’ve briefly seen a Pied Flycatcher whilst I was watching a Jay in the opposite direction, and then we got an impressive sing-song from a Mistle Thrush perched on top of a tree. A couple of Green Woodpeckers made themselves heard but not seen, but we did see at least two Great Spotteds as well. Lots and lots of male Blackcaps were flitting around, plus a few Chiffchaffs, a Stock Dove and a Nuthatch, but the highlight was seeing a Marsh Tit and a Coal Tit bobbing around together in a conifer. Sadly, we also found a killed male Mandarin Duck. Its breast appeared to have been pecked by something rather than bitten or clawed, so perhaps it was a victim of a raptor. Given that the body was mostly intact the assailant appeared to have been disturbed.
The weather on Bank Holiday Monday was too good for us to not be out and about, so we visited Rye Meads RSPB near Harlow for the first time since late last year. We finally got to see some Kingfisher action – a male and a female squabbling on a post by the nesting bank – plus several Common Terns, a nice Wren, lots of Sedge Warblers belting out their songs, and we heard our first Grasshopper Warbler too. Sadly it didn’t make an appearance and so that tick will have to wait, but we did also get a very nice Hobby hunting around the reedbeds. Several Peacock and Orange Tip butterflies were also to be found, along with a brief look at a pair of Blackcaps. I’ve only ever seen a small handful of female Blackcaps (which I think look better than the males), but I’ve never managed to get a photo of one. A challenge that continues…