Thursday 31st. Although the wind had got up from the north when we got back home and an overnight mothing session attracted only three moths they did include our first Dorset record of Powdered Quaker. Some muck-spreading in the afternoon attracted our latest Red Kite to the field at the back of the cottage. Clearly, every clod has a silver lining.
Wednesday 23rd – Wednesday 30th. Prior to our departure for a week in Kent we recorded 27 macros of 9 species, plus a Caloptilia stigmatella which, despite its diminutive size is a very smart moth. From an avian year-tick point of view, Kent was very productive. On the 24th Ring-necked Parakeets were calling along the Green Wall and a trip to the inland side of Worth Marshes turned up the White Stork, still present from last year. It was South Foreland’s turn on the 25th and despite more cloudless conditions Corn Bunting and Brambling were new, upchannel movement included 24 Siskins and 35 Chaffinches, though both were hard to see in the blue sky, and a Red kite appeared over the top wood. By Sunday the 27th the weather had turned but it was a chance to meet up with Roger and Keith at the Bay where Grey Partridge, Ringed Plover and Greylag Goose were all new. In a final outing before returning home another walk over Worth Marshes turned up a Little Ringed Plover, a Spotted Redshank calling somewhere, 5 Avocets, 3 Pintail and the White Stork, clearly reluctant to vacate what is presumably a very good area for feeding.
Monday 21st. 12 moths last night included nothing particularly arresting, but an hour birding from the garden proved to be quite productive. Red Kites flew east along Tatton ridge at 0815 and 0830, possibly from an overnight roost, 2 Linnets were new for March and 21 Goldfinches hinted further at some movement which was confirmed by a northerly passage across the valley of 61 Meadow Pipits and a few Chaffinches. An afternoon walk along the old railway and back along the ridge inland was notable for at least 7 singing Chiffchaffs.
Saturday 19th. Wall-to-wall sunshine again but with a gale force easterly taking the edge of what would otherwise have been a very warm day. At any rate it was the final Six Nations weekend and what a start! Trailing by six points in Wales, Italy picked up the ball in their own half and sprinted away for a winning try with the last play of the game, eventually coming out 22-21 winners; their first win since 2015. In the second game Ireland came out 26-5 winners against a spirited Scotland to give themselves a shot at the title, if England could beat France in Paris. Well, they couldn’t, predictably enough. France stifled more or less everything England threw at them and came out 25-13 winners with another fabulous display by Antoine Dupont who scored one of France’s three tries; the same number England managed in the entire competition against everyone bar Italy.
Friday 18th. With a Full Moon and clear sky mothing prospects were not great, but the trap still attracted two new for the year in Twin-spotted Quaker and March Moth: we only trapped the latter twice in Sandwich. It was warm by late morning, bringing Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell out of hiding, though a brisk easterly prevented trapping overnight.
Thursday 17th. In all probability last night was the coldest of the year so far but it began overcast and frost only developed later in the night, encouraging our first Dorset record of Small Quaker and a second Dotted Border after our first back in February. With uninterrupted sunshine the day became increasingly spring-like and almost on the stroke of midday a Red Kite drifted west along the ridge inland, upsetting five Buzzards in the process.
Monday 14th. Things are looking up. My eye is improving after a second biopsy on Thursday, though I still can’t drive with drops to dilate my pupil causing extra problems with my vision. However, despite an overnight frost the moth catch was the best so far this year, with our first Early Moth, clinging to the wall of the cottage, together with Early Grey and Oak Beauty, both new species for us in Dorset, and Common Quaker for the first time this year. As the morning warmed in increasingly spring-like sunshine a Chiffchaff began to sing and it came as no surprise to find a Peacock butterfly nectaring on the Lesser Celandines in the garden.
Tuesday 8th. With a pernicious easterly continuing and night time values persistently below 5°C things have come to a halt, with no moth trapping, spring butterflies a distant prospect and avian interest significantly reduced. However, by lunchtime with a bit more south in the wind direction it felt slightly warmer and in the early afternoon a party of 80 Starlings and 42 Fieldfares dropped into the hedgerow behind us.
Saturday 5th. We voyaged, courtesy of Great (well, actually reasonably decent) Western Railway to watch Bath v Bristol at the Rec. In what turned out to be the most insane game I’ve seen in ages Bath were 21-0 down after 15 minutes and the game was looking like a car smash. However, Bristol were repelled narrowly a couple of times, got a man red-carded and then another yellow-carded and Bath steadily got themselves back into it, partly through Bristol indiscipline but also some doggedness, particularly in the forwards, who had looked so outclassed earlier. It all came to a crescendo in injury time when Bristol had another man sent off for taking out a Bath attacker in the corner and Bath scored a try to come out 29-27 winners and move off the bottom of the table. For a side with only two regular first team forwards available it was a valiant effort, hugely appreciated by a capacity crowd.
Friday 4th. The moth trap was a bit more interesting with 4 moths including our first Clouded Drab and 40 minutes in the garden added a few more bits and pieces for the month, though none were particularly outstanding. However, as some warm sunshine developed from around 8.45 a Chiffchaff began to sing fitfully and a Blackcap was chuntering in sub song from the hedge across the road: almost certainly a bird that has overwintered locally as it seems early for a genuine migrant.
For lovers of cricket this was a bad day. On top of the news of the passing of Australia’s Rodney Marsh came the shock of the death of Shane Warne, as alive as ever just a few days ago. To say he was a great player fails to do him justice; he was a genuine artist and someone who changed the game as no other.
Thursday 3rd. Yet another morning of persistent light rain and gloom began to relent in late morning. As it did so a Meadow Pipit, unrecorded for over a month, and at least 17 Pied Wagtails appeared on the stubble field across the road, the wagtails including a migrant white wagtail, grey back and rump, dusky flanks and all. Even so, the afternoon remained overcast.