As February breaks into March, a wee bit of sun can make it feel as though spring has arrived and you contemplate hitting the field hard, imagining the migrants are on their way. However, like Michael Caine in Zulu, I try to hold back as long as possible and not fully attack the spring until you can see the white of its eyes. March is a long, long month and there are only a few summer species that appear.
As the now-famous Royal Tern had not been seen for a couple of days, I thought it may have finally gone. However, in my lunch hour on 1st March, I popped to the garage at Perelle for some petrol and scoff, and was surprised to see it bathing in the water at low tide at the bottom of the beach. I was desperate to get a decent photo and so I glanced at my watch to see if I had time to trek down to the shoreline, and of course it was nowhere to be seen. I have found that this bird has a David Copperfield-esque ability to disappear before your very eyes!
Then, just two days later, on 3rd, I pulled up by the beach wall at Vazon pre-school for a quick look out, and the Royal Tern appeared suddenly right overhead! By the time I jumped out of the car though it was racing quickly west and despite my chasing, it still evaded my lens. A first-winter Common Gull was discovered resting on the sands there later in the day which was a good sighting. The rest of the first week was uneventful, but the spring sunshine brought out the first summer insects in the garden.
On the 10th, at Rousse, I finally saw my first proper migrants with a few Chiffchaffs feeding in the trees behind the Peninsula. The sun was out and these little warblers showed beautifully. Also in the coastal grass there, a Meadow Pipit flock were feeding and a Skylark was flushed up and flew over the bay, a very unusual spring sighting on the patch.
The next day was a Saturday, and a quick visit to Pulias was rewarded with the Black Redstart still there, the first Water Rail of the year and a site record count of 3 Grey Wagtail. This was encouraging, although there was no sign of the hoped-for Wheatears.
Around lunchtime, a photo was posted on Facebook of a Bearded Tit taken at the Grand Pre. It is well over ten years since this species has been noted in Guernsey, and so I was keen to see it. I had seen them once before on the island so it wasn't an urgent twitch and I pottered down there early afternoon. Unfortunately it was a short stayer and I missed it by half an hour or so, but I did pick up my first 4 Sand Martins of the year feeding over the pond and a Cetti's Warbler singing away.
Back to work, and on Monday 13th March I was driving along the coast road at high tide past Baie des Pecqueries, just as the waves were splashing over onto the road, and I looked out the window to see the Royal Tern flying alongside me - as bold as you like! It hadn't been seen for six days and I had guessed it had finally gone. Despite the ridiculously close views and the sunny weather, I again failed in photographing it.
Later the same day I finally got my first Wheatear on the shingle at Pulias. This bird was interesting as it had been colour-ringed. Through the bins I couldn't make out the pattern exactly, so I tried taking some record shots which I could blow up on the computer later. Luckily they managed to pick up the pattern, but I had to intensify the colour on the photo to get the pale greens and blues. I searched on the "European Colour-ring Birding" website for Wheatear projects - great site by the way, find it at http://www.cr-birding.org/ - and the combination seemed to best match a project on Lundy. I emailed the guy in charge and just a few hours later I received a message telling me the details - impressively quick. It was a male, ringed in the breeding season which was nesting on the island in June 2015, and hadn't been recorded since. So this bird was probably making its way back to Lundy to breed again. It also matches the theory that the earliest Wheatears we have passing through are the ones which have the least far to go.
On the 16th March it was a lovely sunny day and I was out and about making work experience visits, and seeing so many Buzzards circling the skies above Guernsey. It is fabulous how much birds of prey can thrive without persecution. I passed a couple of Jackdaws in the fields at Rue des Hougues, and a Sand Martin at Pulias and a second Skylark of the month at Rousse.
The best birds of the week though were the remarkably showy pair of Garganey at Rue des Bergers which I popped in to see after work on Friday 17th. This male and female duo swam right in front of the hide and, although it was a pretty dull day, I managed quite a few nice photos.
That evening a pug moth appeared at the outside light at the back door. It wasn't very familiar but I strongly suspected it was a Brindled Pug, which was confirmed by others online. This is the first record for the garden, although I suspect that if I ever put the trap out this early in the year then I might see more of them.
The last week of this period has been disappointingly quiet, although I have been busy. The highlight was being able to take these amazing photos of a hovering Kestrel at Fort Hommet in my lunch hour, when not finding migrants. I was astounded that, even in such a stiff breeze, how perfectly horizontal the bird managed to hold its leading primary feathers, as can be seen in the photo below.