After enduring a spell of freezing northerly winds during my first week on Walney, the weather finally relented this weekend as the wind swung round to the east and milder weather took hold. Given the improved prospects for migrants, I made sure to spend some time actively birding over the weekend, however other than a few Willow Warblers in marginal bits of scrub, there wasn’t much in the way of grounded migrants. However I did manage to pick up a few good birds for the island which meant that the weekend wasn’t a complete disappointment. A trip to check the moth trap on Sunday morning produced a stunning female Merlin which gave great views from the car as it hunted along the shoreline. Merlin is a species I see surprisingly infrequently and the incredible views more than made up for a complete lack of moths in the trap. Birding was then put on hold for much of the afternoon as a parental visit had me heading in to Barrow to get some shopping and a bite to eat. We returned to South Walney late afternoon and headed off on a walk to show my parents around the reserve. We hadn’t even left the car park when my mum drew my attention to a pair of alarm calling Oystercatchers circling high over. Looking up I immediately noticed the object of their displeasure, a stunning Osprey which continued strongly northward in the direction of Barrow! Despite the increased number of breeding pairs in Cumbria, Osprey remains a rare species on Walney with only two records last year so I was very happy to get this species on my reserve list!
On Monday morning a wander round my usual circuit led me to the Bank Hide at Gate Pool where I immediately noticed a Coot, my first for the reserve. I had a feeling this might be a scarce species for the reserve and my suspicions were confirmed correct when I consulted the 2016 report. The Coot population on Walney has undergone a recent rapid decline with only one bird recorded last year, around this time at South Walney. I’ve always found Coot to be a rather underappreciated species and finding an out of place bird was a real thrill, despite their ubiquity in most wetland habitats. The final decent Walney birds of the past few days was a group of at least four Jackdaw foraging around the gull colony on the spit on Tuesday morning. The species is apparently a scarce passage bird at South Walney in the spring with this flock exceeding last year’s May maximum count of just two birds. All in all, the last few days have produced little of real note other than the Osprey, however the thrill of finding scarce local birds is something I’ve enjoyed at various sites over the years and building my South Walney NR list over the next few field seasons is something that I’m eagerly anticipating. As the gulls are steadfastly refusing to lay any eggs, I’ve decided to head home to Stockport for the weekend and may manage to fit in some more exciting birding, including a potential visit to Spurn, in the process.