The team made a return to the marshes this morning for the March snipe count. Seriously delayed, but thankfully not cancelled like January and February. Heavy going over the very wet ground. However the snipe seem quite happy with the conditions as there were a fair number still around this late in the season. 38 flushed overall, eight of which were jack. 10 of the birds –including one jack – in School Pond, the rest in Big Meadow. An encouraging showing of meadow pipits: 2 in Hay Meadow, 2 in School Pond (plus a moorhen) and three in Big Meadow. Graham also reported a brown hare in West Field seen on his reserve inspection prior to the count.
And so it continues…
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.
Wildlife from the Wednesday Work Group
Swallows were swooping over the Wednesday Work Group as we worked to clear algae from the Alder Pond in Big Meadow. We were careful not to go near the moorhen’s nest and found this newt.
As we were packing up, a mother mallard emerged from the marsh with her chicks, we think eight, and led them on to the water, clearly appreciating our clearance.
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.
A Spring of Teal
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.
More people than snipe?
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.
Stoat, starlings and linnets
Last Wednesday (8th February) as the Hedge Working Party past Little Wood we saw a stoat dart across the wood.
Today (11th Feb) we saw a biggish group of starlings adjacent to West Field. I would say a couple of hundred. Also a flock of linnets in the tree adjacent to the Pads footpath.
Oh and a moorhen in Big Meadow next to the Fauna path
February flush count
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.
Extra flush count
Jon was keen on extending the winter flush counts for a further month – and it was a worthwhile exercise. A total of 48 snipe were still on the reserve this morning, the ongoing cold weather encouraging them to stay. Breaking it down, there were 8 common snipe in the Hay Meadow (principally on the cut area of marsh to the north of Cromwell’s Pond), 3 in Upper Sowerholme, 16 in School Pond and 20 in Big Meadow, which also yielded the single jack snipe.
There was a mallard in the Hay Meadow, three in Big Meadow and eight teal still on School Pond, accompanied by a moorhen. Meadow pipits have arrived from Spain and were seen in Big Meadow. Jon also spotted a female sparrow hawk and a reed bunting flying over the reserve.
Snipe numbers holding up well
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