It’s been a month or so now since we finished our major habitat management work on fields 16 and 17 at the eastern end of the site (see last blog) and our efforts are starting to pay off already!
Beckingham Marshes is an excellent site in the winter for wildfowl. Good numbers of mallard, teal, shoveler, gadwall and most importantly wigeon make the Marshes their home in the colder months. Wigeon in particular are very important to the functioning of the wet grassland ecosystem. Unlike a lot of other duck species, they feed out of the water by grazing grass. This winter grazing helps keep the height of the grass sward down nice and low – especially in these milder winters when it keeps growing! The shorter grass length is then ideal for breeding lapwings in the spring, which like a really short sward on which to lay their eggs. This means they can sit on their nests and look around for predators.
So we were delighted a couple of weeks ago to welcome our first wigeon back onto site for the winter, making use of the habitat we have improved and the wet scrapes developing in this area. Currently there are between 20 and 25 birds, but it’s still early days and in previous years, up to 250 have been present by January or February. So do keep an eye open for them and an ear, as they have a lovely whistling call – a real sound of winter!
Wigeon grazing wet grassland. Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
Wet scrapes looking excellent for wigeon and other wildfowl. Jenny Wallace
Also on site recently, the first redwings have arrived – another sign of the changing seasons and the hedgerows have been full of them recently! The female marsh harrier has been seen on a number of occasions and we continue to see both common snipe and Jack snipe on the wet scrapes.
Jack snipe are a charming little bird. Smaller than a common snipe and a winter visitor to the UK, they can be very elusive, skulking in the vegetation until disturbed. Their scientific name, Lymnocryptes minimus (one of my favourites!) means ‘the smallest bird hiding in the marsh’ – very descriptive! They can often be separated from common snipe in flight by their tendency to only fly a few yards, silently before dropping down again into dense vegetation, as opposed to common snipe which fly up high, giving their distinctive harsh call as they rise.
Jack snipe. Mike Langman (rspb-images.com)
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