The Darling Birds of May (Part 3 of 3)

What better way to start the final instalment of this three parter than some words from William Shakespeare with the immortal line from his sonnet 18. The line ‘rough winds do shake the darling buds of May’ is plagiarised here in my title. It was Billy who coined the word ‘birding’ so, I guess he’ll forgive me for altering it slightly?


Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

The Darling Birds of May

Birding Note Book 1998 (Temminck's Stint & Little Gull)

As if April wasn’t enough early May was one of those halcyon days of summer that marinate through the mind and keep your thoughts warm during those long winter days. Seven splendid looking Black-tailed Godwit, brightly plumaged Curlew Sandpiper, Temminck’s Stint (the first of many) and a peak count of 16 roosting Whimbrel were all noted in the bird log. Following closely 4th May had a potential first for Cheshire when a group of visiting birders found an Ortolan Bunting. Other highlights of that day were another Temminck’s Stint (remaining to the 5th), a Peregrine Falcon patrolling the airways above the tank and an ornithological treat for both Martin Gilbert and myself. A fine male Black-tailed Godwit performed its aerial display to a land-based female. He then accelarated high into the cloudless sky and pivoted on his axis, turning a 180, closing his wings and pirouetting into a tumbling skydive seemingly dropping like a stone only to go into a sweep back before the ground swallowed him up, all stirring stuff!

The 7th brought out a one day Avocet (which in its day was really rare), sharing the eastern scrape with an Iberian flava Wagtail, possibly indicating the waders origin?

The 10th produced a mini-wave of north and north-east bound waders. Dunlin numbers increased from 130 to 920 within a matter of days. Associated with this passage was two Little Stint and a single Curlew Sandpiper both resplendent in fine summer dress.

Birding Note Book 1999 (Broad-billed Sand) copy_edited-1

The weather took a horrendous turn on the 11th. In the afternoon a determined Dave Clugston conjured up Frodsham’s second Broad-billed Sandpiper but, before it could be seen by others it melted away within the Dunlin flock and disappeared from view. Dawn next day (12th) rose with an air of expectation as the assembled birders laughs and banter cynically turned to moans and groans as the realisation grew that the wader would not be found. With the strong west-north-west winds and persistent rain their spirits and numbers dwindled. However, with renewed optimism I and a few regulars returned in the evening for a social bird watch. Our reward was just when by some divine intervention the clouds rolled back and the evening light bathed the area in glorious sunshine. From the assembled throng (a Scandinavian smorgarst board of feverishly feeding Dunlin) emerged the immaculately stripey Broad-billed Sandpiper, sharing the same area of glutenous mud was an equally immaculate Temminck’s Stint (you just couldn’t write the script)!

The Broad-billed Sandpiper vacuum was filled on the 13th by two brick-red Sanderling, four rusty and white Little Stint and three blushing Curlew Sandpiper, all of these are normally rare spring transients in Cheshire.

Birdline North West’s ever hungry phone line reported four Temminck’s Stint at Frodsham Marsh and a Franklin’s Gull near Rostherene Mere. I was isolated birding in Norfolk at the time and the lure of new birds in Cheshire had me immediately hitching back home the following day. The number of Temminck’s Stints was alas exaggerated but at least I was on the right side of the country, just in case! The Marsh Harrier was again on view and was a welcome diversion from the activity around it. The final Temminck’s Stint of the spring was flushed from deep cover on the margins of the western pool on 21st and thus ended Frodsham Marsh’s link with a nationwide invasion of the species in 1987. A fitting end to a sunny day was ten Black-tailed Godwits heading north into a cobalt blue sky.

Birding Note Book 1987 (Gull-billed Tern) copy

By the end of May, migration had run its course but the Weaver Bend over shadowed for so long by No 4 tank, finally hit back…and it hit back hard! An evening visit by a Gull-billed Tern surely left the observer’s head spinning as it flew past him?

Bill Morton