A very productive flush count in Fauna today, in marshes as wet as I think they have ever been. On his way over, Graham had already spotted two brown hares in Flora Field moving across to Pony Wood. The Hay Meadow yielded its first (solitary) snipe of the winter. Then from the back of Lucy’s Pool out flew a woodcock (an amber list bird). When we got into Upper Sowerholme proper, no less than six woodcock were seen, principally flying out of the scrub backing onto the Aldcliffe Road houses. In School Pond we disturbed 11 teal and 18 snipe. This is somewhat lower than expected. Jon thinks that, with the fresh water freezing over recent nights, some snipe may have have moved off to the estuary. It may also be explained by the fact that the water level is so high that quite of a lot of the rush has become part of the pond itself. Supporting this theory, numbers in the Big Meadow marsh were up, particularly at the northern end – a total of 52 common snipe and 4 jack snipe. It is quite disconcerting to have a jack snipe take off just as you are about to step on it! Then Graham almost stepped on a water rail! A sparrow hawk and group of starlings over-flying Big Meadow rounded the morning off nicely.
Drip’s last post mentioned that a group of FOG members went round the reserve with Richard Storton from RSPB on Friday. The main aim was to get feedback from Richard on the progress of the reserve (e.g. wetness levels, sward condition, development of vegetation – desirable or undesirable). Overall Richard was most impressed and happy with the way things are developing. His principal concerns are that:
the sward is too high in West Field (not currently being grazed because the White Park herd are unhappy being split to meet Natural England’s stipulation that only three cattle are allowed here during the breeding season)
West Field Scrape is too dry because there is probably still a field drain that has not been blocked
Upper Sowerholme is too dry because of the persistent leak in Anna’s Pool
None of this was a surprise as these problems are already being addressed by FOG.
We questioned Richard about the sudden explosion of water figwort in the marshes in the Hay and Big Meadows, and he will be looking into the causes and consequences of this.
Although concentrating on the state of the reserve, Richard was still alert to the birds. He picked up the call of reed buntings, and then spotted several flitting between Big Meadow and School Pond. He thought there was a good chance they were nesting in the rushes. On the boundary between Big Meadow and Lower Sowerholme he noticed starlings and house sparrows, both including young birds. When we started talking about grey partridge, Richard mentioned that he had seen two pairs in Flora Field a couple of weeks ago when he was sat out in Pony Wood looking for lapwing nests. First he saw one stick its head out above the wheat crop, then they all had a bit of a set-to which gave him a good sight of the others.
A sighting by Ruth who was another person tempted to walk around the reserve on Saturday evening by the lovely sunshine that followed the rain. She bumped into a birdwatcher friend who pointed out a reed bunting in a shrub, just over the fence before School Pond. It flew into Big Meadow before returning to the shrub. Ruth said: “If I’d have seen it on my own I’d have thought it was a sparrow”. Think I would have done too. The photograph on our Wildlife Sightings page is remarkably similar.
Ruth also spotted 5 starlings on the Fauna fence in Big Meadow. Good to have this report. One of the “feature birds” for the nature reserve, but I fear we tend to overlook it.
Along with a host of jackdaws, there were about 15 starlings in the Gleesons field this afternoon. We haven’t had many blogs about starlings, possibly because they tend to get dismissed as a common bird. Yet they are on the red list and one of Natural England’s ‘feature’ species for the natural reserve, along with lapwing, tree sparrow, grey partridge, snipe and brown hare. So please post if you see them in Flora, Fauna or the Orchard. On the grey partridge front, there were two birds again in the West field on the edge of the scrape. Showing well, once you get your eye in.