Summer visitors are now starting to arrive

As I write, the Easter weather outside falls into the '˜typical' category, with gales, rain, hail and a bit of sunshine thrown in.

Saturday, 2nd April 2016, 3:14 pm
The chiffchaff one of the first migrant songsters to listen out for.

On Sunday I took ‘Treacle’ the cockapoo on our favourite riverside walk up the Ettrick Water near Selkirk, failing miserably to dodge the worst of the showers, but nonetheless, it proved to be quite an interesting outing from a birding aspect.

The usual kingfisher failed to put in an appearance, but that was made up for by a wonderful aerial display from a trio of lapwings in an adjacent field to the mill lade - a rare sight in these parts nowadays. The sightings continued to stack up with a group of six meadow pipits on passage, which had stopped off to feed in a muddy area below the new flood protection bank, before heading for the hills.

Further on a solitary kestrel was sitting on an electric wire, scanning the rough ground below for any wayward rodents – another seldom seen sight for this area.

Passing Murray’s Cauld, I stopped to get a tally of the oystercatchers on the gravel bank below the weir. The numbers are gradually falling off after reaching their peak of about 100 a couple of weeks ago and I managed to account for 55 resting on the stones.

Entering a small piece of woodland further upstream, I heard a 30 second burst from the songbird I had been hoping to hear – the chiffchaff. The next heavy shower soon silenced it but it was one of the spring harbingers I always listen out for and it was a bit early this year.

With that in mind, it is a few years since I last published the list of summer visitors and their usual arrival times in the Borders, so here it is again for those who like to keep tabs on such things. It was originally compiled many years ago by the late Tom Irving, an ornithologist from the Langholm area. With climate change now a reality, some of these dates may be a little different but on the whole it should provide a rough guide.

Wheatears – April 2, Chiffchaffs – April 4, Ring Ouzels – April 8, Sand Martins – April 10, Swallows – April 12, Common Sandpiper and Willow Warbler – April 15, Yellow Wagtail – April 19, House Martins – April 23, Tree Pipits – April 24, Cuckoo – April 24, Redstarts – April 26, Whitethroats, Garden Warblers and Whinchats – May 1, Wood Warblers – May 2, Pied Flycatchers – May 3 (Now probably extinct in the Borders), Blackcap and Swifts – May 3, Spotted Flycatchers - May 6.