The last couple of days of February were ridiculously warm with sunny skies and a southerly breeze emanating from North Africa. This really pushed the migrants forward and I saw my earliest ever Wheatear on the rocks at Pulias on 1st March (found by someone else though). My usual estimation for first Wheatear is the twelfth so this is a real early one even taking into account new phenology due to climate change.
The weather did get rather cooler again so the rest of the migrant birds didn’t really follow closer behind. Probably the best bird I found during the month was another Red-necked Grebe off Rousse on 8th March. There was a chance that it was the same bird I saw round there around Christmastime, but I’d have thought it was more likely to be a bird moving north. It wasn’t very close but it seemed to be quite close to breeding plumage with a white cheek, dark neck and blackish cap.
The seaweed at Pulias was attracting plenty of Rock Pipits and one bird in particular was in advanced moult and was clearly a Scandinavian Rock Pipit with its peachy underparts, blue-grey head and white supercilium. There were about ten others there and I suspected that most were also Scandie Rocks as they were edging towards a similar plumage. This was also suggested because, with about a week to go in March, these all suddenly upped and left, leaving just two or three, dull local birds. This sudden disappearance indicating that they were off to their breeding grounds, probably somewhere in Viking country.
Mid-month things were still very miserable weather-wise and not conducive for summer birds. Early in the morning before work on 12th March, I stopped briefly to scan the bay at Vazon/Fort Hommet when a falcon flew low over the car from the direction of the headland. It looked pretty neat and compact and I thought it was a Merlin, which it proved to be when it dumped down on the grass in front of me. It seemed to be a pretty tired migrant, perhaps battling its way against the wind, over the sea. It only stayed for a short while before moving further SW - I’ve not seen many perched Merlins recently over here.
By the 21st, things were starting to move with the odd Chiffchaff noted on the headland and a Firecrest at the Guet which I hadn’t seen all winter. After work on the 22nd I thought it would be rude not to pop down to the hide at Rue des Bergers where four Garganeys had appeared. By the time I got there three had flown off but a single drake was still swimming around right in front of the hide giving excellent views.
My first Sand Martins skipped over Fort Hommet headland on the 26th and a Great Crested Grebe was a new arrival off Pulias on the same day. A quick weekend pop-out to Pulias on 30th brought more Sand Martins but more surprisingly a single female-type Siskin which flew over the car parks towards the sea, before changing its mind and heading east up the coast. Think that is my first spring record for the patch. On the final evening of the month we had a meal out at the Deerhound and saw a Firecrest singing vociferously from the bushes in the car park.
I have been continuing to search for other wildlife before bird migration gets into full swing and have been adding many new lichens to the list. The one below, Phaeographis dendritica, found on a tree trunk by the Reservoir is officially species number 2700.