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.
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.
Walking across Flora Field (arable section) this morning during the volunteering session I flushed a large group of snipe (at least 6, probably 8-10) from the lower northern slope, towards Lower Sowerholme, and then a further 2 nearer Pony Wood. They must have been tucking into small creatures in the recently-spread manure. I was headed for the beetle banks and the water supply points, which needed marking with tape to alert the ploughing contractor, so I certainly didn’t cover the whole field. Maybe next season the flush count needs to include Flora Field as well as the wet areas, at least after the muck has been spread?
It was a very misty morning with low cloud and low visibility, but we heard geese passing over – greylag I think- and several curlews in the distance, down towards the estuary.