The first flush count of the winter this morning put up a total of 22 snipe, all common. All bar one (Hay Meadow) were in Big Meadow. A reasonable tally for this point in the season. The marshes are very dry, the recent rains clearly still replenishing the water table after the summer’s drought. Other notable sightings: two dunnock flying along the Upper/Lower Sowerholme boundary and a jay in Pony Wood. And something unidentified rustling amidst the phragmites which are now quite dense in parts of Upper Sowerholme.
Visited the east side of Fauna around Upper Sowerholme last Monday (06.03.2017) around midday to see what Diptera might be about.
[ Diptera? There are over 7000 species of true flies (as opposed to butterflies, mayflies, etc.) in Britain and they are a vitally important group of insects – as indicators of the health and biodiversity of an area, as pollinators that can be of equal or even greater importance than bees, as crucial agents of the disposal of organic matter, and far more. ]
Still early in the year and not much flying about… a few groups of non-biting midges dancing low down near the water and the occasional small fly flitting away near the ground. As is often the case, a range of species is most easily visible on the fence panels along the path – saw species from the bluebottle family, dungfly family and more.
Fly of the Day – Geomyza tripunctata
One of 16 species that we have in the Opomyzidae family of flies. Widespread across Britain and found in grassy habitats. Swept fair numbers from grasses and saw one on a fence panel. There will be many thousands across Fairfield. Only 3-4 mm long but with distinctive wing markings that give it its name. Adults from March to November, peaking in April so do look out for this attractive animal sitting on grasses or leaves (or fences!).
Photo: H. Baas, courtesy ‘free nature images’
Also saw about 20 jackdaws wheeling low over the Hay Meadow and later saw half a dozen or so hanging about on the path fences and the ground nearby.
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.
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.