A lovely sunny morning for the final flush count of the winter. The highlight was the four jack snipe found in Big Meadow, unexpected this late in the season. They were demonstrating typical jack behaviour: taking off when almost stood on, making no sound, no noise of wings and landing back into the marsh a short way on. Even if their smaller size and shorter bill can’t be seen this is enough to distinguish them from common snipe. Including these jacks, the total number of snipe flushed was 17: 12 in Big Meadow, 2 in Hay Meadow and 3 in Upper Sowerholme. About par for this time of year.
Total snipe sightings for the 2017/18 season were 351. After an excellent start, this final result is slightly lower than the last three years. Notably numbers in School Pond have been disappointing: 54 this winter, against 100+ in previous years. But compensated to an extent by a rise in Big Meadow, the 238 counted this winter being only slightly below the 2014/15 peak.
Other sightings as we walked around were: a kestrel flying over the Hay Meadow; a late redwing in Carr House Meadow; in Upper Sowerholme frogspawn in the Channel, 2 teal, a male pheasant; in School Pond 5 teal joined by the 2 from Upper Sowhrholme, a moorhen and two mallards; in Big Meadow another two mallards, a brown hare, and a female sparrow hawk overflying. Heard were a chiffchaff by Lucy Brook and a greater spotted woodpecker.
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.
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
The Fauna marshes are wetter than ever, with lots of standing water. Don’t know what snipe feel about this, but this morning’s tally overall was slightly lower than last month. We counted 41 plus one possible jack snipe in School Pond, 28 in Big Meadow, and 2 in the Hay Meadow. In the south west corner of Big Meadow was a flock of about 30 birds on the ground. Unfortunately slightly too far away to distinguish, even with binoculars, whether they were redwings or fieldfares (or perhaps both). My wellies almost disappeared in School Pond. They have now joined the boots still drying in the kitchen after Saturday’s hedge working party. It will be good to get some respite from all this mud!
The birds were active around 8am this morning in the top corner of the Hay Meadow by the Cromwell Road gate. They seemed to be taking advantage of the mud created by the cows’ hooves. Some of the cows were just sitting down at the edge of the marsh. Pied wagtail (at least two), blackbird, chaffinch and robin were darting around. More unusual, there were also a couple of redwings. The eye stripe and the red patch on the body beneath the wing were very clear.