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.
Finally a cold spell of weather, although the temperature for the count itself was relatively mild. Today’s tally was the best so far this season, but we’re still not seeing the ‘usual’ numbers of snipe. There were 48 counted in total (one a jack). The split between fields was 6 in the Hay Meadow, 5 in Upper Sowerholme, 7 in School Pond and 30 in Big Meadow.
Also in Upper Sowerholme was a hen pheasant and 9 teal swimming on the pond (probably part of the group of 14 noted earlier in the morning in West Field). There was a very active brown hare, dashing around in Big Meadow and then back and forth along the skyline in the LGGS Field.
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.
The flush count this morning was quite a slog, wading though standing water, balancing on tussocks and trying not to loose wellies to the gripping mud. The reward was a tally of 88 snipe (probably eight of them Jacks). Identical to the number recorded this time last year. However the distribution was rather different. Today the snipe were favouring the conditions in Big Meadow (68 found here, concentrated in the top part of the marsh) with a mere two flushed in School Pond just as we’d almost given up. 14 in the Hay Meadow and 4 in Upper Sowerholme completed the count. In addition two female pheasants were spotted: one in Upper Sowerholme, the other in Big Meadow. And a brown hare too in Big Meadow.
We were quite disappointed by this morning’s flush count. Maybe the snipe are preferring the estuary to the semi-frozen ground and continuing very wet conditions in the nature reserve. But looking back at the records, today’s total of 42 snipe (including 5 jack) is actually higher than the previous two Januarys.
Four snipe went up in the Hay Meadow, 3 in School Pond and 35 in Big Meadow. In addition we spotted several wrens, two mistle thrush in the LGGS Field, a female pheasant in Upper Sowerholme and a little egret flying over along the line of Lucy Brook. Earlier Graham had seen a little owl in Pony Wood.
February’s flush count was brought forward in the light of this week’s FFOG meeting which – among other things – will be discussing our progress in attracting birds to the reserve.
Very wet underfoot again, but an otherwise lovely morning for wading through marshes. An encouraging start in the Hay Meadow, where 17 common snipe were flushed, was followed by a ‘high’ figure for Upper Sowerholme of 7. School Pond yielded 24 snipe (including 1 jack) and Big Meadow 40 (including 2 Jack) making a total of 88, much on a par with this time last year.
Teal were again on School Pond (though only 4 birds) in the company of a moorhen, A heron was spotted in Big Meadow, as were 5 female pheasants and a wren. A brown hare was disturbed in the depths of the marsh. Last seen it was running off in the direction of the FA shed.
An excellent tally for the third flush count of the season. 114 snipe counted, 4 of which were identified as Jack snipe. Big Meadow yielded 42 (3 Jack); School Pond 35; Hay Meadow a surprising 33 (1 Jack); Upper Sowerholme 2 and 1 in each of Flora Field and Lower Sowerholme. Cumulatively this winter’s total is running two months ahead of last winter.
But snipe were not the only birds on show. Twelve teal initially on Alder Pond were encountered again on School Pond, in the presence of a redshank. There were 3 redwing in the LGGS Field. In Big Meadow, two female pheasants were spotted and a water rail was disturbed close to the old Alder tree. Two woodcock flew off from amongst the willows along Lucy Brook in the Hay Meadow. A heron was seen by the Flora Ponds – seems to be a regular visitor here.
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.
Today’s snipe tally was double the number recorded for early March in the past two years. A total of 81 birds, of which 6 were positively identified as Jack snipe. The Hay Meadow took us by surprise as five snipe took off right away, followed by another three. Eight is most we have found in this field. This marsh is really boggy now with loads of standing water. Perhaps they prefer these wetter conditions? Upper Sowerholme yielded seven common snipe. School Pond – more pond than rushes at the moment – provided the first Jack of the day as well as 25 common snipe. Then in Big Meadow we counted 35 common snipe and a further five Jack.
Only one woodcock today, as usual in the brambly corner of Upper Sowerholme. But lots of other birds to compensate:
* two water rail in Lucy Brook close to the Cromwell Road gate
• 20 redwing flying over from Pony Wood to land in the trees on the edge of Big Meadow
• four female pheasants in the Hay Meadow
* a total of 11 teal flying off from School Pond in ones and twos
* a moorhen and four mallards in School Pond (all possibly seen again in Big Meadow)
• three wrens in the vicinity of the old alder tree in Big Meadow
There was a very handsome male pheasant by the edge of Alder Pond around 4pm today. He was just on the other side of the Big Meadow hedge, busy feeding as he walked along the trod created by the cattle. Despite being so close, he wasn’t disturbed by my presence.