Yesterday’s flush count was most satisfying: the second highest monthly number of snipe since the counts started in January 2013 and a new record for Big Meadow. A slow start with 3 in the Hay Meadow and 6 in School Pond, where the whole area was awash. But in Big Meadow, they were flying up in groups. 110 counted, eleven of them jacks. Add in the one seen earlier by Graham on his walk-through in Lower Sowerholme gives a total of 120. Now well ahead of the measly score for the whole of last winter.
Snipe were not the only highlight. Meadow pipit were seen in Big Meadow and School Pond, where a scurrying vole was almost trod on. We also saw the curlew spotted by Christine. It was feeding in the southern end of Big Meadow and then moved to the Willow Pond area of Lower Sowerholme. A male peregrine flew westwards over Big Meadow.
On the more grizzly side, but evidence of wildlife presence, there was a mallard skull in Big Meadow, a skinned hedgehog in School Pond and some dried out frog spawn on the grass in the Hay Meadow.
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.
At least we didn’t get drenched this morning! But the reserve marshes are incredibly wet for this time of year. Despite the temperature still being quite high, we flushed 20 snipe, all in Big Meadow. One to took off from Ian’s feet, so probably a jack snipe already back from its breeding grounds in either northern Europe or northern Russia. There was a kestrel hovering over the Big Meadow marsh and another meadow pipit to add to the six noted in School Pond.
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.
Walking across Flora Field (arable section) this morning during the volunteering session I flushed a large group of snipe (at least 6, probably 8-10) from the lower northern slope, towards Lower Sowerholme, and then a further 2 nearer Pony Wood. They must have been tucking into small creatures in the recently-spread manure. I was headed for the beetle banks and the water supply points, which needed marking with tape to alert the ploughing contractor, so I certainly didn’t cover the whole field. Maybe next season the flush count needs to include Flora Field as well as the wet areas, at least after the muck has been spread?
It was a very misty morning with low cloud and low visibility, but we heard geese passing over – greylag I think- and several curlews in the distance, down towards the estuary.
Poor results again. The penultimate flush count of this winter yielded just 16 snipe (including 1 jack). Apart from one in the Hay Meadow, all the rest were in Big Meadow. This total is exactly a tenth of the highest-ever monthly count on the reserve –160 in March 2016.
On the plus side, teal are still making a regular appearance. Twelve were counted on School Pond, along with two mallards and a moorhen. There were three mallards in Big Meadow too. (Hopefully some of these will adopt the the artificial nests in the Hay Meadow and Upper Sowerholme.) A meadow pipit and a pair of reed bunting were also spotted here.
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.
This morning’s tally of snipe was a measly 15 (including 1 jack). 14 flushed in Big Meadow, one in Hay Meadow. This season is running well behind. The total for the winter so far is standing at 73. In all but one of the previous years we have been over the 200 mark at this point.
Better news was the sighting of two woodcock in Upper Sowerholme by one of the team whilst the others were distracted by a roe deer. There were also five teal on School Pond.