As winter continues its march towards spring one or two more species start singing during this month. With the continuing change in weather at this time of year the winter flocks of Fieldfare and Redwing fluctuate. Redpoll and Siskin can be present, sometimes in large flocks of up to 100 birds. On some of the sunnier days Blue Tits will be checking out nesting holes for suitability.
This is woodpecker month. You should be able to hear the drumming of the Great Spotted Woodpecker during a visit to the estate woodlands. You may even be able to hear the "metal-pecker" that sometimes drums on the pylon at the eastern edge of Racecourse Plantation. Song Thrushes will be singing on the milder days toward the end of the month.
Our first returning summer migrant should appear from mid-March onwards, song of the Chiffchaff is one of the most distinctive as it continuously tells you its name. Most of the resident species will now be singing first thing in the morning. Woodcock should also be roding over Heather Park in the last light of the day. Curlew and Lapwings can be seen overhead as they move inland to their breeding grounds close by. Skylarks also return from the coast.
Several more species arrive from their wintering grounds in Africa to set up territories. Swallow, Willow Warbler, Blackcap and more Chiffchaff will boost the dawn chorus. Occasionally birds stop over en-route to their breeding grounds further north, so keep your eyes peeled for unusual species.
Listen out for the distinctive "yaffle" of the Green Woodpecker.
The bulk of the summer migrants will arrive during May. We should also hopefully get birds that have failed to find territory elsewhere turning up to try their luck in St. Ives. Pied Flycatcher is one such species and with the new nest boxes now in place we should get some breeding pairs. Wood Warblers and Garden Warblers should arrive and add their voices to the bird song you hear. This is another good month for rarities to appear as they migrate to their summer homes and get lost on the way.
With the breeding season in full swing you should see the first fledglings appear in the woods, but watch out for the Sparrowhawk as this is the start of their best hunting period. Bird life becomes harder to see once the trees are in full bloom.
Many birds start moulting their feathers at this time of year and stop singing to announce their presence, as they can't fly as well as usual. Coupled with the amount of leaves on the trees birds can be hard to find.
Summer migrants start leaving for Africa during August. Swifts and Pied Flycatchers are usually gone by the end of the month. Kingfisher can turn up at Coppice Pond as their young disperse from the rivers.
Most summer migrants will leave St. Ives during this month, but as birds migrate they can turn up anywhere and this is a good month for unusual species to turn up.
This month usually marks the return of the winter Thrushes, Redwing and Fieldfare, as well as finches such as Brambling, Redpoll and Siskin. Chiffchaff sometimes lingers into October and young males can sometimes still be heard singing during the early days of the month.
Large feeding parties can be seen usually containing several species, including winter Thrushes and Finches. This tends to be a quiet month for the birds with just the common species present.
As winter takes hold the weather patterns often dictate what winter visitors we have in the estate grounds. Fieldfare, Redwing, Redpoll, Siskin and Brambling numbers fluctuate greatly. Mistle Thrush can be heard singing. Little Grebe can sometimes turn up on Coppice Pond as well as Goosander, but these species won't come for bread.