Two shelduck swimming on School Pond this morning. Also a cowslip in the Hay Meadow, towards the southern end, visible from the Fauna path .
The scheduled final flush count of the winter took place this morning. Much colder and drier under foot than last week. A total of 30 snipe, the most this late in the season since April 2015. 25 in Big Meadow, 5 in School Pond. The main point of comment was the high number of jack snipe – comprising a third of the total, all in Big Meadow. (Not as marked, but the proportion of jacks last Monday was also unexpectedly large at just under a quarter.)
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.
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.
Exceedingly wet underfoot, but at least the rain and wind had abated. A decent tally of snipe – 46 counted in all. 12 in School Pond, 33 in Big Meadow (including 2 jack) and a solitary bird in Hay Meadow. A female pheasant and four meadow pipits were also spotted in Big Meadow.
A total of 50 snipe (3 of them jack) were flushed by the team in Big Meadow this morning (nothing in the other fields). An excellent total for this early in the season, although not quite a record. 6 meadow pipets were seen. also in Big Meadow.
Another very productive flush count. Despite the fields being as wet as they ever have been, the rush is hosting a large number of snipe. The total of 111, including 13 jack, is just shy of February’s excellent tally. Things started slowly with 1 in the Hay Meadow, 2 in Upper Sowerholme and 5 in School Pond (into which only the most intrepid members of the team chose to venture). Big Meadow yielded 103 snipe, at times flying up in such in numbers that it was getting very difficult to keep count.
Other sightings: 2 reed bunting and 4 starlings in School Pond, a curlew in Lower Sowerholme plus a heron on Willow Pond, 3 female pheasants and a wren in Big Meadow marsh, and 3 mallards that we seemed to be chasing around the reserve. There is also a lot of frogspawn about. And on the edge of the Fauna path against Big Meadow was this early caterpillar. Can anyone identify?
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.