I headed down to Newchurch Common earlier than usual to try to see if any early migrants were around that may be gone later in the day. A dull, cold, dreary day, with a cool breeze and occasional rain showers, not spring-like at all!
In spite of the weather it was a red-letter day on my local patch, it always is when you add a Patch Lifer to your list and that's what I did today, albeit a common bird elsewhere. With no wader habitat on my patch to speak of, this group of birds is scarce and I've only ever recorded a handful of species, but today I picked up a Common Redshank standing on the submerged willow spit out in Sandiway Big Pool. This is where I've often had Snipe too, but it's hard having to rely on waders perching in trees to add them to the patchlist! Also on Big Pool was the female Smew again, near the submerged willow spit as usual, but elusive, with a small group of Tufted Ducks, which are now down to only about 25 birds. Once the group of Tufted Ducks that the Smew associates with leaves to breed that will be the last we see of her for a while. A Cormorant flew over, and now it's spring sightings of this species will be few and far between. There were much greater numbers of Herring & Lesser Black-backed Gulls around, both in passage over and down on Big Pool. Two Greylag Geese flew in and landed with the resident Canada Geese.
The passerine highlight was the first Blackcaps of 2018 here, with 3 singing males noted. Also present were 2 Willow Warblers and 6+Chiffchaffs. Two male Reed Buntings were noted, a good count for here, where this species is scarce and localised. Over Big Pool a good sized hirundine flock contained 40 Sand Martins, 20 Swallows and 2 House Martins. Other notable birds seen, for the local patch area that is of course, were Pied Wagtail, Coal Tit and Long-tailed Tit. A Green Woodpecker was present east of Big Pool again.
All in all a great walk in wintery conditions but with a good smattering of spring migrants thrown in, as well as a patch life-tick!