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.
Prodding about in the muddy edge of Lucy Brook near the Cromwell Road gate this morning. Promptly scuttled off out of sight into a bramble thicket.
This was the tally of snipe in the Fauna fields this morning, including one Jack in Big Meadow. After two months with bumper counts, the measly total of 27 was the lowest December figure since we began doing flush counts. Possible explanation is too much standing water in the marshes.
Making up for this disappointment, two water rails were noted. One was identified by sound, calling from Lucy Brook at the back of the Hay Meadow. The second took flight from the Big Meadow marsh, about a metre away from me. And then just after we got home Paul spotted a buzzard flying over the Hay Meadow.
An excellent tally for the third flush count of the season. 114 snipe counted, 4 of which were identified as Jack snipe. Big Meadow yielded 42 (3 Jack); School Pond 35; Hay Meadow a surprising 33 (1 Jack); Upper Sowerholme 2 and 1 in each of Flora Field and Lower Sowerholme. Cumulatively this winter’s total is running two months ahead of last winter.
But snipe were not the only birds on show. Twelve teal initially on Alder Pond were encountered again on School Pond, in the presence of a redshank. There were 3 redwing in the LGGS Field. In Big Meadow, two female pheasants were spotted and a water rail was disturbed close to the old Alder tree. Two woodcock flew off from amongst the willows along Lucy Brook in the Hay Meadow. A heron was seen by the Flora Ponds – seems to be a regular visitor here.
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.
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
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.