I walked along the path from the Fairfield Orchard to the Cromwell Road gate this afternoon at about 2:45 pm. The weather was cold but sunny.
There was one song thrush in the Big Meadow not far beyond the map board. I watched it for about 5 minutes and it did not move much.
Continuing to the School Pond I spotted teal. In the end I counted 5 pairs; so a total of 10.
They were spread around the edges of the pond initially but went into the water eventually. However they stayed visible on the water and did feel the need to retreat to the reeds on the far side of the pond.
There was also one moorhen around the School Pond.
According to the Internet, the collective noun for a group of teal is “a spring”. Hence the title of this post.
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.
Given the strength of snipe numbers so far this season, we were expecting a busy time this morning. But the outcome – a total of 37 including 2 probable Jacks – was considerably lower then in 2014 and 2015, albeit only i less than last year. The relatively mild conditions perhaps? Split was 13 in Hay Meadow , 2 Upper Sowerholme, 13 School Pond and 9 Big Meadow. There were 4 teal in West Field. Three teal took off from School Pond and were later seen flying away from Alder Pond. Two jays were in the Carr House Meadow/Gun Range hedgerow, and a heron was spotted flitting around the reserve. There was a lot of evidence of small mammals (voles?) feasting on the soft rush..
I forgot to post Jonathan’s email to the volunteers but the report on what we actually did follows.
But first note that a Little Egret was observed on School Pond by the volunteers. I think this may be significant as this species, whilst common on the riverside marsh and occasional on our neighbouring drumlins, has not been seen very often, if at all (?), on the Reserve. Perhaps one of the birders will comment on this.
Thirteen volunteers attended the monthly session on a warm, dry but overcast morning.
The hedge overhanging the lane running from Sunnyside Lane to the Orchard was trimmed back.
The debris was moved away including the fallen leaves on the track.
The netting on the shed roof was carefully removed including its ‘harvest’ of sycamore leaves and seeds. The experiment has been very successful as the sedum appears undamaged and entirely clear of sycamore debris. There should be a huge reduction in sycamore saplings next spring.
Leaf debris around the shed was cleared away.
The broken fence post adjacent to the new double gates across the Fauna path was replaced.
The hedge between the Fauna path and Carr House Meadow was trimmed. Still needs reducing in height.
The hedge between Carr House Farm garden and the Fauna path was trimmed back and the debris removed.More work was done trimming the hedge between the Orchard and the Pads footpath.
More work was done trimming the hedge between the Orchard and the Pads footpath.
Further work was done pruning the fruit trees.
Tony was unable to provide refreshments on this occasion but Emily and Julia stepped into the breach with two excellent cakes.
In previous years, the first flush count of the winter has netted fewer than 10 snipe. This morning we recorded 23! There was one in the Hay Meadow and four in School Pond,. The remaining 18 were noted in Big Meadow. Interestingly, all bar one of these flew up from the northern part of the marsh, where the rushes are young and green following the recent management. (This is where Ian N. took the snipe photograph he posted a few days ago.) Not many other notable birds around, although a meadow pipit took off from the northern end of Big Meadow marsh. On a lovely sunny and deceptively warm day, the Hay Meadow marsh was busy with insects. A Comma butterfly was spotted in Upper Sowerholme and a Red Admiral by School Pond.
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.
The wonderfully sunny and almost warm conditions suited the flush counting team this morning. And the snipe too must be finding conditions more to their liking. In contrast to the disappointing figures recently, today’s count set a new record. Snipe were coming up so thick and fast and in all directions that it was almost impossible to keep track. And there may be some double counting as birds disturbed in School Pond settled into Big Meadow only to be disturbed again. But the tally of 160 snipe (7 of them jack), comfortably tops the previous high of 119 from 2nd February last year. The breakdown was Hay Meadow 6; Upper Sowerholme 1: School Pond 82 common and 3 jack; Big Meadow 64 common and 4 jack.
In addition we noted: 13 teal, 2 mistle thrush and 2 mallard in School Pond; 2 water rail along Lucy Brook in the Hay Meadow; 3 mallard on Friars Pond in Big Meadow and a meadow pipit; a great tit calling loudly from the south end of the Orchard. To round things off nicely, there was a glimpse of a brown hare keeping a low profile in the Big Meadow marsh.
We delayed a week because of strong winds and I was starting to think we would have to do so again. But it’s the southern part of the country that has born the brunt this time and so we ‘just’ had to combat a rain squall and more water underfoot than ever. A more rewarding snipe count this time: 80 snipe overall, double last month’s number. Breakdown: 1 found in Flora Field, 1 in Upper Sowerholme, 4 in the Hay Meadow, 19 in Big Meadow (including 1 jack) and 55 in School Pond (3 of them jack). In addition. there was a moorhen on School Pond and 8 teal in Willow Tree Pond (Lower Sowerholme). Later the same group of teal flew up as we entered the Big Meadow marsh and headed back in the direction of Lower Sowerholme.