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April 2013. Spring At Last! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jos   

White-backed Woodpecker


Farewell a month of snow, so arrives the merry month of April ...and a bucketload of more snow!!!

Little migration in the first days of the month, but both Snow Buntings and Whooper Swans recorded at Labanoras, plus lingering White-backed Woodpeckers continuing to hog the feeders. From the 8th however, the migrant floodgates began to open ... and within days, tens of thousands of birds on the move, including raptors galore, massive movements of passerines and oodles of cranes and storks, movements that lasted much of the month.







1-6 April. White Delights, Snow, Swans and Buntings.


Fox tracks in the snow 




As snow piles up and Lithuanians sink into an eternal depression, the winter just seems to drag on forever. Nevertheless, despite heavy snow on several days and a blanket of the white stuff now sitting to an amazing depth of one metre on much of my land, still I actually managed a couple of quite good days.


Top billing, appropriate enough given the Arctic-like landscape, was a little flock of Snow Buntings - right corkers, five birds were found feeding aside the road adjacent to my land, a passing vehicle then flushing then and sending then flying off across my meadows, a new species for my land, species number 155. And just as these flitted off, flashing black and white as they went, over flew more white delights - signs of spring movement, first four Mute Swans gleaming in the sun, then two Whooper Swans, the latter birds only the second record ever of this species for my land! Nice.









Quite a slog to reach my feeders now, a battle through snow occasionally up to my waist, but a nice collection of birds still lingering to reward the effort. All the woodpeckers clammering for food, a female Grey-headed Woodpecker almost constantly present, plus four to five White-backed Woodpeckers too, much courtship in evidence. Amongst them, one Treecreeper still acting most out of the usual - like a finch, hopping about on the snow.





7 April. Butterfly Season is Open!


What a difference 24 hours makes! A slight rise in the temperature, the capital positively basking at 4 C, with a blazing sun to boot, and the winter shroud finally seems cast aside - not only the first flocks of Common and Black-headed Gulls appearing on the river, but a passgae White-tailed Eagle too ...plus, in the middle of the afternoon, fluttering along a sunny slope, albeit still cloaked in snow, my first butterfly of the year - a Brimstone!

With the forecast pointing to rising temperatures over the next week, all is set to change ...




8 April. It's Spring!


Yippee, storks, cranes, eagles, geese, lapwings, starlings, skylarks, in they come! With the temperature again at plus 4 C and a sun doing its best to boost it yet further, I paid my first trip of the year to Lake Papis, traditionally one of the first lakes in the area to lose its coating of ice.

And what a glorious result ...packed onto the trickle of water already open, mingling amongst Mute Swans and Mallards, flocks of Whooper Swans, a dozen Greylags, two Bean Geese and smattering of added extras, including Pintail, Shoveler, Tufted Duck and Goosander. And ringing the water, sitting upon the ice, several hundred Black-headed Gulls, a small flock of White Wagtails and a bunch of Lapwings, truly a pleasant sight after so many months of winter.


White-tailed Eagle




Yodelling overhead, an impressive gathering of eight White-tailed Eagles tumbled and trawled the skies, a calling Crane also making circuits of the lake, plus my first White Stork of the year a little later. Skylarks heading over in steady passage, an incoming Mistle Thrush too, plus northbound Wood Pigeons and occasional Starlings as well, all most welcome.





After an hour or so, adding Green Sandpiper and Common Redshank to the migrant mix, it was time to return to the city, spring truly in my heart. Two hours later, just as five White Storks cruised over the city centre, the sun dipped behind an ominous bank of cloud. Another half hour and it was snowing again, cars turning white ... winter was giving a final parting kick!




11-12 April. Dumpster Storks!


A bit of a pongy destination, but a most enjoyable couple of hours at the local rubbish tip these days!



White Stork




With migrants flooding in, but fields and forest still decked in snow, the new arrivals are facing a bit of a challenge to find good feeding locations. Solution for one impressive flock of White Storks was to adopt the city's rubbish tip, a mega 120 birds squabbling with assorted gulls and crows over the latest delicacies to be tipped from the back of the dumpsters rolling in with fair regularity.





Sitting atop buildings, plodding across rotting heaps, pacing out of the way of trucks, not the most picturesque of destinations, but certainly quite unique. With temperatures set to soar to 14 C in the next days, grasslands should emerge all to soon, the White Storks certainly then abandoning this site. Also amongst the masses of birds, several Lesser Black-backed Gulls, not too common so far inland.


White Stork




13 April. In They Come!


The floodgates have opened - temperatures are climbing to plus ten and migrants are flooding in!


Common Frog



Despite snow and ice still a predominant feature of the landscape, significant arrivals on this day included White Storks dotting nests far and wide, an Osprey at Lake Papis, and multiple flocks of Great Crested Grebes and assorted rafts of ducks also on the lake. On top of this, waves of passerines including Song Thrushes, Reed Buntings and Chaffinches, plus my first Chiffchaff of the year.




Also, hopping across the snow, two Common Frogs in my garden, stork food emerging!




14 April. Migrant Extravaganza!


The rolling meadows of Labanoras, a tundra-esque patchwork of snow, meltwater pools and withered banks of newly-exposed grass. A week earlier a carpet of snow had smothered all, a depth of 50 cm and more leaving the land truly in the realm of a winter yet to disappear.

Yet, here I was, just one week later and tens of thousands of birds were streaming overhead, a massive influx filling the sky - flocks and flocks of passerines passing over, Lapwings tumbling over the slopes, Green Sandpipers and Snipes calling in display, raptors drifting north and a constant ensemble of yodelling Cranes, bill-snapping White Storks and countless Skylarks rising into song.

In the first three and a half months of the year, I recorded a grand total of just 33 species on my land. In today's influx, representing one of the best spring days I have ever had on my land, I added an impressive 37 more! In between the estimated 8000-10,000 Skylarks, 4000-6000 Chaffinches and perhaps 2000 Starlings, my eyes were just popping out at the delights arriving every few minutes - amongst the highlights, one male Hen Harrier drifting north, a total of fifteen Marsh Harriers, a single White-tailed Eagle and two Lesser Spotted Eagles. Also at least 40 Cranes, the first Wheatear on my land for a couple of years and my first ever spring record of Kestrel (three birds present). Also managed to shatter records for Cormorant, White Wagtail, Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting, the counts of 51, about 45, at least 50 and about 45 respectively constituting my highest ever counts of each. On top of all this, quite a sight given the snow and ice, two Swallows also hawking over a meltwater pool and an assortment of wildfowl meandering about looking for somewhere to land (all the local lakes still frozen solid).





  • Mute Swan (9 birds)
  • Bean Goose (2)
  • Mallard (10)
  • Goldeneye (1)
  • Goosander (2)
  • Cormorant (flocks of 29 and 22)
  • Grey Heron (three, hanging out near the heronry)
  • White Stork (30, many already atop nests)
  • White-tailed Eagle (1 imm)
  • Lesser Spotted Eagle (two singles)
  • Common Buzzard (10+)
  • Marsh Harrier (15, all northbound)
  • Hen Harrier (male)
  • Goshawk (1)
  • Sparrowhawk (3)
  • Kestrel (three birds, first ever record in spring)
  • Common Crane (about 40)
  • Lapwing (400+)
  • Common Snipe (two, displaying)
  • Curlew (four birds, uncommon on my land, not seen in 2012)
  • Green Sandpiper (six, already displaying)
  • Black-headed Gull (40+)
  • Common Gull (15)
  • Wood Pigeon (30)
  • Skylark (8000-10,000)
  • Swallow (2)
  • Meadow Pipit (30+)
  • White Wagtail (45)
  • Northern Wheatear (male, uncommon on my land, not seen in 2012)
  • Blackbird (15)
  • Fieldfare (800+)
  • Song Thrush (50)
  • Mistle Thrush (2)
  • Great Grey Shrike (1)
  • Starling (2000+)
  • Chaffinch (4000-6000)
  • Brambling (1)
  • Goldfinch (30)
  • Siskin (120+)
  • Linnet (40)
  • Yellowhammer (50+)
  • Reed Bunting (45)





18-23 April. Islands in the Mediterranean.


Black-necked Grebe




Not quite the sun-soaked affair I had been hoping for, temperatures unseasonally low, but a good few days anyhow. Based on the islands of Corsica and Sardinia, Corsican Nuthatch and Corsican Finch topped the list, with added extras including Lammergeier, Scopoli's Shearwater, Marmora's Warbler, Blue Rock Thrush and both Spanish and Italian Sparrows.





For full report and photographs,

**** CLICK HERE ****





27 April. Red Letter Day, Labanoras.


Back in Lithuania, back to Labanoras, a week away and the land had basically transformed ... gone the last hints of winter, the ice all melted, snow long gone. And in their place, flowers in meadow and forest, a fluttering of butterflies and a good influx of yet more migrants - Whinchats, Lesser Whitethroats, dozens of Willow Warblers, a flock of Tree Pipits, Yellow Wagtail, and more and more.

Of special note however, a bevy of extra-special birds amongst the more common migrants - not only my second White-tailed Eagle of the year, plus a booming Bittern, but a very late flock of Waxwings (17 birds) and, top of the lot, a fly-over flock of Wood Sandpipers.  Whilst a fairly common passage migrant in Lithuania, I have never recorded Wood Sandpipers on my land before ...species number 156, the second new species in the space of a month!

With that pretty impressive haul, I would already have been on cloud nine, but just to add the icing to the cake, my peanut feeders also attracted a special visitor on this day - Red Squirrel! Two visited for a few days back in November, the first ever time they had graced my feeding station, but then promptly vanished ...maybe one of the same animals back for more?

Last Updated ( Friday, 03 May 2013 )
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