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.
One Brown Hare sighted browsing on vegetation at the foot of the far hedge in West Field (Pony Wood end) at around 7am this morning (02/05/20).
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.
A heron flew up from Lucy Brook this morning and I spotted a hare lolloping along in Flora Field.
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.
The flush count this morning revealed a measly total of 22 snipe, 3 of which were jacks. Three birds in the Hay Meadow, the rest in Big Meadow. The running total for this winter stands at just 58, the lowest it has been since we started the winter counts in 2013/14. But it is still mild and also today very wet in the marshes, so the snipe may well be on alternative feeding sites.
Better news was a sighting of two brown hares (separately) in West Field. A small roe deer moved off into Upper Sowerholme, and quite a large frog was disturbed in the Hay Meadow up towards Lucy’s Pool.
Just for the record, on Tuesday evening, a local person informed me of a recent brown hare sighting. As I have not seen a hare for some time I found this reassuring.
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.
Walking around the arable field this afternoon we saw these two brown hares enjoying the sunshine.
Also around were a pair of stone chats checking out the new saplings.
I believe this one is the female stonechat.
Also near the gate by Pony wood were a robin and this wren.
In big meadow were two song thrush.
Then by the paddock we heard curious tapping coming from a nest box,
and then …
this spring-cleaning blue tit appeared.
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.