Two seen this morning in Lucy’s Pool in the Hay Meadow.
The fields were exceeding wet again for this morning’s count. Steady rain made spotting difficult for those with glasses and recording numbers was not easy, despite pencil and waterproof paper. To add to the complications, some of the snipe were flying up in quite large groups. Overall a very good total of 106 snipe (of which 17 were jack found in Big Meadow). Breakdown was 1 Hay Meadow, 2 School Pond, 101 Big Meadow and 2 noted slightly earlier during the reserve inspection in Lower Sowerholme. One of the jacks was not flushed by the team but taken by a sparrowhawk. The hawk was seen to go down on the far side of the marsh and the fresh wing of a jack snipe was noticed as we walked through the rush. Other highlights were a heron in Upper Sowerholme, and a brown hare near Willow Pond in Lower Sowerholme (again a sighting from the reserve inspection).
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.
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.
Another very wet tramp through the marshes this morning. A total of 37 snipe flushed, one of them a jack. Breakdown was 1 in Hay Meadow, I in Upper Sowerholme, 3 in School Pond and 32 in Big Meadow. There was a water rail calling in Upper Sowerholme, and a rodent scurrying amongst the Big Meadow rush (possibly a field vole). Also noted were 4 meadow pipits amongst the reeds in Upper Sowerholme and another two in School Pond, along with a wren. Earlier in the morning Graham had seen three herons on Willow Pond (Lower Sowerholme) and a cock and two hen pheasants in Flora Field.
A heron took off from Alder Pond as we passed this morning and a sparrowhawk was on patrol over Big meadow during the morning.
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.
A lovely morning for a flush count: warm, dry and with the trees still displaying their autumn colours. But the snipe were clearly less impressed. Graham had noted plenty around on his reserve inspection during the recent cold spell, but today’s tally was disappointing. Only 14 snipe flushed in total, 3 of them jack. There were 9 in Big Meadow, 4 in School Pond, and one in the Hay Meadow. Not even a fifth of the birds counted last November, when the temperature was 7 degrees C instead of 12.
But there were compensations. A woodcock was in Upper Sowerholme by the Lucy Brook willows. A heron flitted across from Anna’s Pool into Willow Pond, which is now holding water well. And the teal are back on School Pond, eleven flying up.