Finally an encouraging flush count! In fact, the highest January total of snipe since the winter of 2014/15. 59 birds flushed including 5 jack snipe. Breakdown was 39 in Big Meadow, 7 in School Pond, 8 in the Hay Meadow, 4 in Upper Sowerholme plus one by the ponds in Flora Field. In addition, the first woodcock of the season was spotted in Upper Sowerholme.
There was a heron in Upper Sowerholme, probably the same one Graham had seen earlier in the Flora ponds and then in Willow Pond (Lower Sowerholme). Likewise the 6 teal seen in Upper Sowerholme and the 4 flying over Big Meadow were probably part of the group of 11 Graham had disturbed on Willow Pond. Also noted were a meadow pipit and a wren in Big Meadow and 4 female pheasants in Flora Field.
With the onset of a colder spell of weather, we were hoping for a high count of snipe this morning. The reality was another modest tally. With the marshes frozen, the estuary is probably a more attractive feeding ground. The breakdown was 22 common snipe and 3 jack; 5 of the birds jumping out of the rush around School Pond, the rest flushed in Big Meadow.
The highlight was a very close and clear sighting of a female sparrowhawk. She took off from the depths of the Big Meadow marsh and landed at the top of the ash tree by the bend in the Fauna path. She may well have been responsible for the two pigeon carcasses spotted in Upper Sowerholme. Field voles seem to be present in good numbers in the Hay Meadow. They have been nibbling the rushes and were seen running about. A heron took off from the vicinity of Friars Pond, and there were several meadows pipits in Big Meadow.
Another very wet tramp through the marshes this morning. A total of 37 snipe flushed, one of them a jack. Breakdown was 1 in Hay Meadow, I in Upper Sowerholme, 3 in School Pond and 32 in Big Meadow. There was a water rail calling in Upper Sowerholme, and a rodent scurrying amongst the Big Meadow rush (possibly a field vole). Also noted were 4 meadow pipits amongst the reeds in Upper Sowerholme and another two in School Pond, along with a wren. Earlier in the morning Graham had seen three herons on Willow Pond (Lower Sowerholme) and a cock and two hen pheasants in Flora Field.
The final snipe count for this winter put up 13 snipe, all common. Seven in Big Meadow, two in the Hay Meadow and one lurking in Upper Sowerholme. Plus three in Flora Field, where there have been quite a few sightings recently. The muck spread on the arable is proving an attractive complement to the usual the marsh habitat? Overall, it remains a very poor season in terms of snipe numbers for the reserve, with the total counted just 150, less than half last year’s tally.
School Pond is still popular with the teal – 11 noted. A heron was spotted, as was a hare in Lower Sowerholme.
A lovely morning for a flush count: warm, dry and with the trees still displaying their autumn colours. But the snipe were clearly less impressed. Graham had noted plenty around on his reserve inspection during the recent cold spell, but today’s tally was disappointing. Only 14 snipe flushed in total, 3 of them jack. There were 9 in Big Meadow, 4 in School Pond, and one in the Hay Meadow. Not even a fifth of the birds counted last November, when the temperature was 7 degrees C instead of 12.
But there were compensations. A woodcock was in Upper Sowerholme by the Lucy Brook willows. A heron flitted across from Anna’s Pool into Willow Pond, which is now holding water well. And the teal are back on School Pond, eleven flying up.
The cold wind and snow flurries have kept the Fauna footpath unusually quiet today. So less disturbance for the heron which was around over a period of at least an hour wading about in the Hay Meadow pond. Could not identify what it was catching, but it seemed to be quite successful. At one point it was enjoying the clear water with a mallard.
The marshes were slightly less wet for this month’s flush count, and the temperature feeling pleasantly mild after the last few days of cold and wind. But not many snipe in evidence. 7 in the Hay Meadow, 5 in School Pond, 17 in Big Meadow (4 of them jack) and 6 in Upper Sowerholme. Total of 35 was actually comparable to last year, but well short of March 2016’s record tally.
But if we weren’t calling ‘snipe’, there was a lot of other wildlife to grab our interest:
heron (presumably the same one) seen earlier in Flora Field (along with a mistle thrush) then spotted flying above Upper Sowerholme. taking off from the Big Meadow marsh and seen again landing in Cromwell’s Pond (Hay Meadow)
two hen pheasants in Upper Sowerholme
a woodcock in the Lucy Brook willows in the Hay Meadow
a reed bunting on the old alder tree in Big Meadow
a meadow pipit in the Big Meadow marsh
a skylark around School Pond
12 teal, mostly lurking in the rushes rather than on the water of School Pond
and a real highlight – a brown hare disturbed in the west side of Big Meadow, which proceeded to make a high speed circuit of the field.