As March unfolds
|River Almonte early spring (Martin Kelsey)
The sequence of spring colours has commenced, the yellows dominating the pastures, with marigolds and crucifers forming a sheen across the meadows, set off with the vivid splashes of Hoop Petticoat Narcissus, usually like a shower of bright sunny yellow, but sometimes too in the densest of groups, like a fanfare of trumpets.
|Hoop Petticoat Narcissus (Martin Kelsey)
|Lesser Kestrel (Martin Kelsey)
|Spanish Imperial Eagle (Martin Kelsey)
As the flowering plants tread out their annual cycle, so the phenology of the summer migrants unfolds on cue. As I write pretty much all of the species expected by the last week of March have arrived. Each day brings the possibility of fresh arrivals - I know that any day now, my first Rollers of the year will appear and the crescendo of Nightingales will join the pre-dawn Scops Owl, already in place and shaping the noctural soundscape.
On the rice fields the ploughed fields are quickly drying, leaving very few wetter fields to attract passing migrants. Coming across a muddy, puddle-filled field is the signal to stop and scan, hoping to find some waders. Over the last few days, we have found Temminck's Stints, Ruff and Kentish Plovers amongst others, but with each visit, there is both a different selection of species present..and less mud available. The waders are sharing these patches with a good passage this year of Water Pipits, some in breeding plumage. I have also been checking small pools for my favourite duck, the immaculate and diminutive Garganey, which is a scarce passage migrant here. So far I have found one pair, tucked in and resting at the end of a little muddy spit amongst several hundred Teal. But my visits to different water bodies have yielded other rewards. Spoonbills have been present on several occasions and there seem to be more of them around this spring than usual. The two in the photo below were part of a group of six which were present at a pool, along with Great Egret. Their breeding population is increasing in Extremadura and it will be very interesting if they establish any new breeding sites this year.
|Spoonbills (Martin Kelsey)