It’s impossible to predict how any one count will go: there does not seem to be any obvious pattern. This month’s December tally is on the smaller side. In fact the lowest so far this year at 32 snipe including 2 jack. 28 of them were in Big Meadow, 3 in School Pond and a solitary bird in the Hay Meadow. Whilst Upper Sowerholme was devoid of snipe, it did yield 6 fieldfare, a kestrel and 6 teal (probably the same ones spotted earlier on Willow Pond by Graham during his reserve inspection). There was a reed bunting in School Pond; a heron and curlew seen in Big 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A glorious sunny morning had brought out the walkers to enjoy the delights of the reserve. Unfortunately we were not able to entertain them with clouds of snipe rising into the air. A measly total of 31 (including 4 possible jacks). A far cry from the record 160 flushed at this time last year. For the season as a whole though, the count is much the same as for winter 2015/16. The breakdown was 1 in the Hay Meadow (presence of the cattle for the past couple of days may have disturbed the birds here), 7 in School Pond, 4 in Upper Sowerholme and 19 in Big Meadow. The teal are still in evidence on School Pond – 11 birds flew off as we plodded through. Also a moorhen in School Pond, heron and reed bunting in Big Meadow, a wren and a long tailed tit in the willows near Anna’s Pool.