After the beast from the east retreated, March continued to be a pretty good month for bird sightings, and certainly didn't drag like if often can do. On 6th, still quite bleary-eyed driving to work, I saw a first-year Common Gull feeding in the newly dug up field whilst waiting at Oatlands traffic lights - a new species for my immediate local area. Nothing much happened until 12th March when I saw my first Wheatear of the year on Pulias headland. A classic spot and a classic date for the harbinger of spring - I always tell people that 12th March is "Wheatear Day" because that's when I expect a Wheatear, and it was bang on this year! On 13th March the sun came out and so I took plenty of photos and also saw the Glossy Ibis in its favoured field along Rue des Bergers. I wonder how long this will stay - we seem to be attracting long-staying rarities at the moment.
The previous week, the long-staying island Canada Goose was taunting me by visiting a flooded field within my 'patch' borders whilst I was stuck in parents evening. Since then it has been reported at a couple of spots either side of the patch but refuses to have the decency to get inside! The main reason of course was that there isn't any proper fresh water but it could have at least done a fly over. Anyway, on 14th, due to a diversion, I ended up driving past Barras Lane fields where, bold as you like, the Canada Goose was swimming around in the floods - literally a couple of hundred yards south of the patch. It is quickly becoming my evil nemesis.
On 20th March, on the rocks off Rousse at high tide, I saw something that I hadn't seen for a long time - a flock of Purple Sandpipers. Looking back at my records, I have had single birds three times since 2010, but never more than one at once. I initially saw one bird as a distant, sleeping smudge on a rock from the further car park, but just from the colour tone of that smudge I knew it was worth driving round for a second look. Walking to the edge of the beach I could see that it was certainly a Purple Sand and there were two more keeping it company. I crept closer, avoiding the rising tide, to take some photos, but only later, when reviewing them, did I notice that a fourth, previously-hidden, bird had temporarily joined the party before hiding again without me noticing.
On 21st March there was brief excitement when a Velvet Scoter was found in Belle Greve Bay - the first record for the island for years and years. Unfortunately, I was at work and wasn't able to get there in time before it disappeared, never to be seen again. I tried again in the evening, scanning from Salerie corner to see if it would return on the high tide, but there was no sign. There had been a bit of an influx of migrant Sandwich Terns offshore with up to 20 birds feeding off White Rock, then in the last throws of light I picked out the Royal Tern feeding with them, albeit somewhat distant. The first time I had seen this bird all year, which has now spent almost 14 months with us on and off.
The next day, 22nd March, I had to pop out from work to visit a work experience student, when I looked online and saw that the Hawfinch flock at the Foulon had suddenly multiplied in size. As I was (almost) passing the place to get back to work, I called in and was entranced by the Hawfinches flying round and round me, seemingly everywhere at once. I counted 15 birds together as a maximum but there were clearly many more spread round the trees because almost everywhere I walked there were one or two bounding through the air, or resting in the tree tops. It was a truly magical experience.
The next day, 23rd, I had a quick scan of the Old Aerodrome after work as I was picking up Aidan from a school trip to Lihou. In the same bins view I had a drake Pintail and a summer-plumaged Black-tailed Godwit - not a bad combination! On 24th we took the dog for a walk round Fort Doyle and, despite the chilly wind, it definitely felt like spring since we had 4 Wheatears, a Chiffchaff, 6 Sandwich Terns and the island's first two Sand Martins of the year.
When the weekend came around (25th) I just had to go for seconds of the Hawfinch flock at the Foulon as this may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. When I arrived it was quite early and the cemetery appeared pretty undisturbed. The Hawfinches were lined up in the tops of two adjacent trees and I thought it was an ideal opportunity for an accurate count. I managed at least 29 birds counted through the bins and when I got home to study the photos, there were 28 or 29 birds visible. Not a bad flock of these barrel-chested beasts. I had lots of great views of the birds as they bombed round the yews and the graves but I was not lucky with photography - again! A Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming distantly from behind the cemetery somewhere and I enjoyed watching a family of Wood Mice scurrying around underneath a yew tree.