March is also the month when bird-watchers eagerly await the return of familiar migrants from their southern winter-quarters. Wheatears arrived in a rush around the 17th, while the first Swallow and White Wagtail were seen at Marshside on 15th. Chiffchaffs were also singing from mid-month, the first Willow Warblers appearing on the last day of March. Probably as a result of climate change, our summer visitors now include that former rarity, the Avocet.
Birds turned up at Marshside in the second week, reaching 60 by 19th, the influx at Martin Mere being even more impressive, with 70 counted by the end of the month. One of the latter flock had been colour-ringed in Brittany in 2006, perhaps indicating a French origin for our Avocets. Less common migrants included Little Stint and Ring Ouzel at Marshside, Glaucous Gull at Birkdale and a spectacular Red Kite reported at Mere Brow on 16th. I was summoned to Seaforth on 21st to see a rare American Ring-necked Duck which, annoyingly, was later identified as a hybrid with the Tufted Duck! However, the same place turned up trumps ten days later with Iceland and Ring-billed Gulls, both from the other side of the Atlantic.
An interesting and useful publication is John Dempsey’s Wild Merseyside which sets out to describe the wealth of wildlife that we have in Merseyside and its surroundings. Beautifully illustrated, it provides very good value for money at £4.99 and is available in local bookshops.