A couple of hours spent bumbling around Aldcliffe this morning was a little more productive than of late.
Now, don't get me wrong; I love a bit of sunshine and time spent on the patch on glorious spring days are hard to beat but there's a lot to be said for cloud and drizzle at migration time.
Things seemed much the same around Freeman's Wood and the Pools. Blackcaps, willow warblers and chiffchaffs were all in fine voice while a great spotted woodpecker hammered out its territorial claims.
With the annual lapwing nest annihilation having got underway on Thursday, it was heartening at least to see the muck-spreading going on today, before any birds have had chance to re-lay. Even so, I'm sure the seeding will be implemented just in time to trash a few more eggs yet.
So far I hadn't seen any lapwing chicks in the fields; they must have been so close to hatching. This is a clear demonstration of the kind of appalling farming practice that's at the heart of massive national declines in so many farmland birds. And all for some shitty cattle-grade maize...
Along with the distressed lapwings, there were also several linnets and a single wheatear in the area. Then came my first patch-year tick of the day, a cracking male whinchat on the hedge. Lovely!
The drizzle stepped up a notch and within seconds dozens of house martins and swallows, along with a few sand martins, descended.
I made my way to the Wildfowlers' Pools where the highlight was a pair of dazzling summer-plumage black-tailed godwits.
In the nearby hedgerow I heard my second patch year-tick of the day; sedge warbler. About time too!
The Flood was bereft of birds bar a couple of pairs of shelduck. Where are all the white wagtails this year?
As I walked along the path past Walled Meadow my third and final patch year-tick zoomed into view. A swift bombed by at eye level heading toward Stodday.
For me, the sight of a first annual swift is about as enthralling as birding gets. I actually gasped out loud and my pulse notably raced as this scythe-winged master of the air shot by. Pure magic.
I detected a distinct increase in common whitethroat activity around the Aldcliffe area this morning, yet oddly didn't hear a single lesser whitethroat.