A small but keen group met on a chilly damp morning on May 1st to take part. 18 species of invertebrates were identified in moth traps and in the Flora Ponds and 25 bird species. Highlights were – a red kite ( from Grizedale?) over Flora Field, 5 stock dove, a swallow, probably collecting mud from the Flora Ponds for a nest in the boat house opposite, whitethroat in Pony Wood, a jay making a very strange call in The Orchard, and a great diving beetle larva gobbling up smaller creatures in the plastic tray. For those of us unfamiliar with moths, the names “Hebrew character moth ” and “shuttle shaped dart” were fascinating in themselves.
A total of 81 snipe flushed this morning from the marshes, which are still exceedingly wet. Four of these were jacks. 67 birds counted in Big Meadow, six in School Pond and none in the Hay Meadow. Upper Sowerholme yielded more than have been seen for several years. Eight birds came up from the area where the reeds have been cut. The running tally stands at 429, the highest it has been at this point in the season.
There were two meadow pipits in School Pond, a little egret overflew Big Meadow and there were several noisy and busy mallards around.
Two seen this morning in Lucy’s Pool in the Hay Meadow.
The fields were exceeding wet again for this morning’s count. Steady rain made spotting difficult for those with glasses and recording numbers was not easy, despite pencil and waterproof paper. To add to the complications, some of the snipe were flying up in quite large groups. Overall a very good total of 106 snipe (of which 17 were jack found in Big Meadow). Breakdown was 1 Hay Meadow, 2 School Pond, 101 Big Meadow and 2 noted slightly earlier during the reserve inspection in Lower Sowerholme. One of the jacks was not flushed by the team but taken by a sparrowhawk. The hawk was seen to go down on the far side of the marsh and the fresh wing of a jack snipe was noticed as we walked through the rush. Other highlights were a heron in Upper Sowerholme, and a brown hare near Willow Pond in Lower Sowerholme (again a sighting from the reserve inspection).
A lot of standing water in the marshes this morning, and challenging depths of mud for the team in places. 90 snipe counted. The Hay Meadow and School Pond yielded one apiece, Upper Sowerholme two. All the rest were in Big Meadow, 21 of them jacks. This is the highest January total since 2014. Two ravens flew overhead as we left Big Meadow for the Fauna path.
The heavy rain kindly eased as we started the count this morning but we were walking though a lot of standing water in the marshes. The snipe however seemed quite happy with the conditions on the reserve, with an excellent total of 81 flushed (breakdown: Hay Meadow 1 common; School Pond 19 common and 1 jack; Big Meadow 45 common and 15 jack). The difference in the behaviour of jack and common snipe was very marked. Common snipe can go up en masse, many metres away. The team were taken by surprise when barely entering School Pond caused a group to burst out of the rush and scatter. Impossible to be confident of exactly how many, so the consensus was 15. In contrast, jacks hang on until the last moment and so tend to go up singly. Most were found at the end of the route through Big Meadow, and seemed to be favouring the clearing areas within the marsh. Several times a jack snipe narrowly avoided being trodden on by the next step.
The count scheduled for the start of the month was postponed because of heavy rainfall. The marshes remain extremely wet. With the weather still mild, a digger working on Alder Pond at the top of the Big Meadow marsh and most of the cattle in School Pond, we were not optimistic about snipe numbers today. But the overall tally of 57 (including one jack) was at the higher end for this time year. All bar one which flew up from School Pond were flushed from Big Meadow.
Linnets in the oak tree on the Long Pads.
The colder weather has encouraged the linnets to return to Fairfield in numbers.
On Thursday 21 Oct there were 83 linnets around and we have restarted the feeding programme established last year by Dan Haywood and LDBWS
Multiple skeins of geese (someone will have recognised them by their calls but not me, sorry) flew south over the reserve this morning, and at 12.15 four buzzards were circling and calling over the allotments and no doubt making sure the Wednesday Work Group left on time and locked the gates properly.
A total of 14 snipe were flushed by the team on Monday. All from Big Meadow and all common (it is a bit too early for the jack snipe).