A quick update on the Corona virus closure - the reserve will remain closed for the foreseeable future unfortunately due to the issues of how social distancing can be maintained and cross contamination of the hides and toilets is controlled. We also have to respect the local community and how they would feel if lots of visitors arrived in the area, but its not been an easy thing to have to come to terms with that the way the reserve currently operates in a confined area will not be an easy system to run especially with the ever present risk of a virus that can be spread by people showing no symptoms and through contamination of surfaces. But I do assure everyone that we are looking at a way forward and a system that may be able to control numbers of people on site during any one day, however in the current situation this still may be a little way off as is the opening of cafes and bars. So please do bare with us and help us keep the conservation work going by supporting us, we are doing our best to operate with virtually no staff and little income and working closely with HQ to see a way forward towards how and when we welcome people back to site.    

Anyway onto the interesting part about the wildlife.........................

Amazing that at the start of the weekend it was sweltering t-shirt weather and by Sunday it was back to the thick coat and woolly hat! Monday was a wickedly cold May day and for some species such as the bearded tits who are feeding young in the nest it was a particularly difficult time. But fortunately for the beardies there was only a sprinkling of rain which helped many of them carry on feeding, food equals calories and calories equal warmth, and with the nests tucked down deep in the reeds they seem to have managed to weather the storm and at least keep nestling mortality to a minimum. The bearded tits are one heck of a tough little cookie!

Male bearded tit from about 3 weeks ago, the reedbed is a little greener now

And the marsh harriers are sitting tight, in fact so tight at times you wouldn't know they were there until a male came in with food, sometimes they are food passing but when its very cold the males are dropping to the nest so the females don't have to get off the eggs. I'm fairly sure that the eggs are near to or just starting to hatch, we'll soon see when the weather warms up and the females start to leave the nest a little more as the young get older. 

Marsh harriers food passing

Seems like the buzzards too are going to stay all summer this year with birds still around site feeding, also of interest was a red kite flying north and today the years first hobby maybe looking to snatch one of the 60+ swifts that were feeding around site. Certainly nothing like the 200+ swifts we used to get, what has happened to the swift population in recent years, its just crashed beyond belief. 

Red kite

Wader passage despite having some lovely habitat has been pretty atrocious this year possibly due to a combination of northerly winds, high pressure and no rain to drop them down while on migration. There was the years first common sandpiper and ringed plover (maybe that says it all), 3 dunlin, 3 greenshank briefly and the odd whimbrel, snipe and black-tailed godwit and then the breeding avocets and lapwings. Even the spotted redshank have now gone back to their breeding areas in Scandinavia, it was clear that they were itching to leave as they fed up frantically for a couple of days and one male was giving a bit of song, one of the best wader songs I know and rarely heard in the UK. 

Black-tailed godwit and spotted redshank - the godwit is probably 1 - 2 years old so hasn't got its breeding plumage

Common sandpiper

Greenshank

Avocet with muddy feet and bill

And this whimbrel dropped into Xerox for a couple of minutes before going north

Nothing to shout about on the wildfowl front although a pink-footed goose today was maybe a reflection of the weather! A few herons and spoonbills, little egrets and again a male and female bittern chasing each other around site one afternoon. 

Bitterns

Spoonbill - maybe one of last years young birds from somewhere, it looks amazingly young!

Many of the smaller birds are settling down to breed and with the cold often hiding rather than singing, but a few warblers about including a tad more reed warblers, cuckoo again briefly, the odd wheatear and yellow wagtail but nothing too different this week. 

Yellow wagtail

Sedge warblers have been reported declining in many parts of the countryside this week via the BTO, but its something the team here have been aware about for a while. The sedge warbler breeding numbers at Blacktoft seem to be managing to hold up but I surmise this may be just the fact that we have a big population that has plenty of habitat. In other areas you get the feeling that again the loss of rough and wet habitat around agricultural areas is leading to isolated small populations being unable to produce enough young to survive and return from migration - probably a common story for many migrants.....

Sedgie

Its been an interesting week looking at insects and flowers as I've gone about my work, great to see Horseshoe meadow really coming to life with many different flowers now showing and when its warm buzzing with insects, as have the areas around the Hawthorn hedge which is always particularly productive. Here's some of the sites mix of species, nothing rare but hopefully it gives you an idea of the wonderful diversity. 

Mother shipton moth - their caterpillars feed on vetch

 A nice four spotted chaser dragonfly, we also have a few hairy dragonflies about too

And also a good year for large red damselflies

There are also the first small coppers about now - this one rubbed salt into the wound and was on volunteer oil seed rape (We have to pull thousands of these on one of our SSSI meadows!)

The red clover looks lovely on Horseshoe meadow and is feeding lots of bees

Meadow clary just flowering - its from the sage family.

Some great clumps of ragged robin about too

The sow thistle is a little stunted this year in the dry weather but it makes it look like a much better wildflower - just flowering its very attractive to insects like this hoverfly 

And although yellow rattle parasite's grass it also will use vetches too.  

We set quite a lot of vetch around the edge of the meadow so that there would be a strong nectar mix for bees and butterflies - after I thought it hadn't worked in the early stage this year its going to look fantastic with plenty of different vetch species just starting to flower.

And thats it for this week I do hope that the blog is still managing to keep peoples spirits up especially for those who cannot leave the house very often. I'll finish with a picture of last weeks flower petal moon from my front window.

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