Saw three female pheasants in Big Meadow in the rushes this morning while walking along the footpath – didn’t seem bothered by ponies, who were pretty close.
The pink-footed geese left yesterday – no idea where they go on to, but lovely to see them while they’re here. Certainly interesting to hear Ian and Jon’s views on why they might prefer the hill – maybe it’s both aspects. Apols for low quality of photo.
The Saturday morning volunteer session saw 22 volunteers attend despite miserable wet weather at the start. The weather did improve.
- Hedges were trimmed:
- Between the Pads footpath and the Orchard.
- Near the large ash tree on the Fauna path.
- Between the Fauna path and Carr House Meadow.
- Between Carr House Meadow and the Grammar School field
- Unwanted self seeded saplings, particularly willow, were cut back in a large section of the Orchard.
- Enveloping vegetation along the hedge between the Pads footpath and Big Meadow was cleared to give the hedge saplings a better chance. We can also estimate how many replacement saplings are needed. Hopefully we will keep a close eye on these gap areas this summer and allow the saplings to grow.
- New saplings were planted in the gaps in the newly laid hedge between the Long Pads footpath and Lower Sowerholme. A mix of hawthorne, blackthorn, hazel and rowan from the Woodlands Trust.
- Overhanging branches at the Cromwell Road gate to Carr House Meadow were pruned back to provide better vehicular access.
- The willow ‘living fence’ between the Fauna path and School Pond was repaired and upgraded.
- Orchard fruit trees were pruned, especially those with stems going too high.
- Mud was cleared from the paths in the Orchard.
- A member of the Fairfield Allotments joined the session to prune back the hedge between the allotments and the Grammar School field.
Part of the large flock of geese currently feeding on the hills adjacent to West Field actually crossed the boundary and explored West Field for a short time this afternoon. They do seem to regard the hedge as a rigid boundary (my own amateur theory is that the hills are heavily manured and thus have new grass shoots) but perhaps this little foray will lead to more extensive occupation.
Also yesterday I saw two song thrushes flying from the Pads footpath across Big Meadow to the hedgerow near Lucy Brook. I believe it’s some time since anyone has seen thrushes.
Snipe numbers on the reserve have previously been on a rising trend at this time of year. Not so today. A measly total of 38 (including 2 Jack), down on December and considerably lower than January in the past two years. Picking Jon’s brain for an explanation and the mild weather is probably a factor, allowing the snipe to disperse more widely. But the recent flooding could also be playing a part. It is creating new (albeit temporary) pockets of habitat full of drowned invertebrates, which present lush feeding opportunities. The number of snipe roosting on the reserve therefore may well be higher than this count suggests.
In terms of spread between the fields, the Hay Meadow again yielded a higher number than anticipated. 11 birds, principally flying off from around Cromwell’s Pond. This marsh is now full of standing water, so perhaps this greater wetness is more attractive. In contrast, the Big Meadow marsh was not much wetter than normal and only 9 birds were counted, including the 2 Jack. School Pond yielded 14, Upper Sowerholme the remaining 4. But still no woodcock, nor were there any teal on School Pond.
Other highlights: a single long tailed tit in a tree by the Fauna footpath near School Pond, a female reed bunting near the old alder tree and two meadow pipits in Big Meadow.