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.
The cold wind and snow flurries have kept the Fauna footpath unusually quiet today. So less disturbance for the heron which was around over a period of at least an hour wading about in the Hay Meadow pond. Could not identify what it was catching, but it seemed to be quite successful. At one point it was enjoying the clear water with a mallard.
The final flush count of the winter yielded just 16 snipe: one in the Hay Meadow, one in Upper Sowerholme, six in School Pond, five in Big Meadow and – for the first time – three in Lower Sowerholme (Willow Tree Pond). But whilst the snipe are moving on now, there were plenty of other birds about. A chiffchaff was singing in the trees around Upper Sowerholme. BIg Meadow yielded a mistle thrush, meadow pipit, male reed bunting, blackbird, moorhen and two mallards. There were another two mallards swimming on the pool in Upper Sowerholme. Flying over the reserve were a heron, buzzard and sand martin. There was just one female teal in School Pond, but her behaviour suggested that she could have a nest.
The wonderfully sunny and almost warm conditions suited the flush counting team this morning. And the snipe too must be finding conditions more to their liking. In contrast to the disappointing figures recently, today’s count set a new record. Snipe were coming up so thick and fast and in all directions that it was almost impossible to keep track. And there may be some double counting as birds disturbed in School Pond settled into Big Meadow only to be disturbed again. But the tally of 160 snipe (7 of them jack), comfortably tops the previous high of 119 from 2nd February last year. The breakdown was Hay Meadow 6; Upper Sowerholme 1: School Pond 82 common and 3 jack; Big Meadow 64 common and 4 jack.
In addition we noted: 13 teal, 2 mistle thrush and 2 mallard in School Pond; 2 water rail along Lucy Brook in the Hay Meadow; 3 mallard on Friars Pond in Big Meadow and a meadow pipit; a great tit calling loudly from the south end of the Orchard. To round things off nicely, there was a glimpse of a brown hare keeping a low profile in the Big Meadow marsh.
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.
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
I walked along the Fauna footpath last night, shortly after dark. There was a lot of noise coming from School Pond – birds calling and splashing about. Identified the laughing quack of the mallard and, listening to the audio on the RSPB website, the other sounds were probably also mallards. Hadn’t realised that these are amber list birds!
On his latest monthly check through the reserve on Monday, Graham spotted a hare in the arable (Flora Field). He also saw three – quite large – Mallard duckings in Alder Pond. They are clearly not bothered by the algae (or the barley straw intended to treat it) as I saw them there a day or so earlier.
The new addition to the website – wildflower sightings – includes a photo of yellow flag iris taken in the Orchard. There is a good patch of these flowers in the Hay Meadow too, behind Cromwell’s Pond by the brook. I assume the red clover photo was taken in the main part of the Hay Meadow where seeds have been sown. However, red clover can also be seen at the moment at the edge of the field when approaching the Cromwell Road gate.