Spring is normally a great time for birders because of the opportunity to clock the arrival of summer visitors and spot rare passage migrants as they stop off to refuel. But this spring the Covid-19 pandemic has severely affected opportunities for birding, at first through voluntary measures to reduce the risk of spreading infection and then because of the nationwide emergency lockdown imposed by the government.
As from 24th March, we have been allowed to leave our homes only for essential supplies, for medical care, for “absolutely necessary” work or for daily exercise in the immediate vicinity of the home. A ban on unnecessary travel means that Brent Birders have not been able to monitor the site as intensively as usual at this time of year.
Luckily, one regular Brent Birder — Andrew Self — lives close enough to the Welsh Harp to take his daily exercise there and keep an eye on the site’s birdlife. Because the emergency requires him to work from home, he has been able to visit the site at times when he would in other circumstances have been commuting into central London. As a result, he has recorded the year’s first Sand Martin, Willow Warbler and Little Ringed Plover. During March he also recorded a Yellow-legged Gull and a Mandarin Duck (both rare at this site) and on one walk around the site he noted seven singing Cetti’s Warbler — a record number for the site.
The WHCG looks forward to the return of normality, but in the meantime urges all birders to behave responsibly. We encourage you to watch birds only from the security of your own home or on a local walk where you can keep a safe distance from other walkers, joggers, cyclists, etc. Do not visit the Welsh Harp during the emergency if your journey would involve the use of public or private transport.
Stay well, and make the most of your local lockdown birding.