An early morning visit to the harbour was a good move. I'd heard from a reliable source that a small group of Twite had been on the salt marsh and, keen to see them, I beat my way along the base of the sea-bank in the bright morning sun. A few small parties of Linnets flushed, together with a few Skylarks, a Reed Bunting and a surprising number of Rock Pipits - a species which has been absent for the last two weeks or more - so presumably these were birds which have wintered elsewhere and were now pushing their way northwards. A small group of nine Linnets or Linnet-like birds flew silently overhead but against the sun. I thought their silence rather odd, so I strained to follow them in my bins, convinced they were Twite. They settled about as far away from where I stood as they could and after a long wait I gave up and made my way back to the parking area. Robert had just arrived and we stood watching out across the wide, open marshes, straining our ears for bird sounds on the cold breeze. Then, without warning, nine noisy Twite buzzed right over our heads, chortling merrily as they bounded away towards the distant spot they seemed to favour out across Ragged Marsh. Moments later, a fine Black-tailed Godwit materialised from a creek and fed at close range on the mud in front of us and within seconds, a stunning adult male Hen Harrier flew low towards us across the salt marsh from the east, over the channel and onto Ragged Marsh, which it quartered before flying back east, even closer to us and giving superb views as it passed. A short while later a Marsh Harrier flew west and I commented that this might be our last chance for a hoped-for wintering Spotted Redshank. Almost as I spoke, a Spotted Redshank's unmistakable 'tuwit' rang out over the marsh as a bird towered up and flew east. What a start to the day !
The avian riches of the rest of the day never quite compared, though Robert had a Siskin in the pines and at least three Buzzards were airborne together over the grazing marshes as 5 or more Marsh Harriers quartered the reed beds. Excitement later came in the shape of a rather large-looking Hoverfly which we chased across the salt marsh until we managed to find it settled and were able to get some photos in the hope of identifying it later. Three Peacock butterflies were on the wing.
Plants new in flower were Cherry Plum and Green Alkanet and much Common Whitlowgrass was out in the dunes. Close scrutiny of the sheltered Gorse bushes revealed about ten Gorse Shield Bugs, several Seven-Spot Ladybirds and a very fine (but yet-to-be-identified) caterpillar. A search for frog spawn drew a blank, but a pond skater (again, to be identified) on the fresh marsh and at least three Three-spined Sticklebacks in the River Hun from the wooden bridge was some compensation. The day was rounded off with a short twitch to see some Otter spraint under the Hun road bridge which Phil had found early in the day.
Mystery caterpillar on Gorse, Holme NWT, 22nd February
Gorse Shield Bug, Holme NWT, 22nd February
Cherry Plum Prunus cerasifera blossom, Holme Village, 22nd February
Mystery (small) Crane Fly, Holme Dunes, 22nd February
Sweet Violet Viola odorata, bank of the River Hun, 22nd February
Common Whitlowgrass Erophila verna, Holme Dunes, 22nd February