The final flush count of the winter yielded just 16 snipe: one in the Hay Meadow, one in Upper Sowerholme, six in School Pond, five in Big Meadow and – for the first time – three in Lower Sowerholme (Willow Tree Pond). But whilst the snipe are moving on now, there were plenty of other birds about. A chiffchaff was singing in the trees around Upper Sowerholme. BIg Meadow yielded a mistle thrush, meadow pipit, male reed bunting, blackbird, moorhen and two mallards. There were another two mallards swimming on the pool in Upper Sowerholme. Flying over the reserve were a heron, buzzard and sand martin. There was just one female teal in School Pond, but her behaviour suggested that she could have a nest.
Today was the first count of the season. And the weather seemed to recognise it! Graham, Paul and I found ourselves once again wading though the marshes in squalls of rain. This year’s explosion of Water Figwort has made some parts of the marshes even more of a struggle to negotiate. Whether it is also making the vegetation too dense for snipe is yet to be established. It is probably too early to expect many snipe around yet. However, Graham spotted one in Lower Sowerholme (the ex-Gleesons Field) and five flew up from the Ash Tree Pond area of Big Meadow. (Graham had also found three here on his last monthly inspection on 1st September.) Otherwise the only other bird identified was a wren in the Hay Meadow by Lucy Brook. , For the first time, the phragmites reeds that had been planted in Upper Sowerholme had grown high enough to be readily visible. They appear to be establishing reasonably well.
Whilst it was still bright and sunny, we wandered round the boundaries of the nature reserve early yesterday evening. The woodpecker in Pony Wood was going at it hammer and tongs, the sound carrying far across the fields. After hearing from Jon Carter about the decline in recent years of greenfinch numbers because of a virus, Paul was delighted to see a couple as we paused on the Long Pads path. They were perched briefly on a wire fence at the boundary between Flora Field (new name for the arable) and Lower Sowerholme (formerly known as Gleesons field). But we couldn’t spot the grey partridge in West Field, and were starting to think that the lapwings had moved on. Just as we were about to get to the end of the reserve by the Aldcliffe Road houses, we heard a brief call: two displaying together over the ridge of Flora Field. One promptly landed at the top of the field, silhouetted against the skyline, distinctive crest showing clearly. Magical.