Mild, stormy, and wet both from the sky and on the tides, yet the the reserve has been outstanding this month with the wetland birds giving our habitat management the thumbs up by using both the lagoons and grazing marsh in impressive numbers. Time after time I've sat in Ousefleet hide in particular or looked from the field side gate and just thought 'fantastic' this is what large swathes of our countryside should be like, full of birds and wildlife. 

Black-tailed godwits and redshank - I just love the contrast of the orange legs of the redshank in this picture 

The waders have been sublime, curlews starting from time to time to feed in front of Ousefleet hide, 180 black-tailed godwits, hundreds of lapwings, redshanks, 24 ruff, snipe, and this morning the arrival of our first locally breeding Oystercatcher who was busy stuffing worms down it was probing for on one of the Islands on Xerox. Apart from the golden plover flying over then there has been some very nice close views of many of these birds around the reserve as hopefully my pictures and video show.  

Curlew in front of the hide from the weekend

And for those without video player

We've had a couple of colour ringed black-tailed godwits in amongst the crowds, one of which was ringed just last year in Snettisham, the other is Ten years old and although ringed at Holbeach near the Wash it has been recorded around the Wash, Lune estuary Lancashire, Killingholme pits on the Humber, North Duffield Carrs and on the Eden estuary in Fife Scotland as its made its way towards Iceland. A great example of how birds require multiple wetlands during migration. 

Feeding redshank at Marshland during a high tide

Great too to have the ruff back - amazing how their numbers rise and fall depending on how flooded the Lower Derwent Valley is. 

Curlew and ruff together

I always enjoy the black-tailed godwits, such lovely waders and fond memories from when I worked with the limosa breeding birds on both the Nene and Ouse washes. 

A few of these are attaining their red breeding plumage

  

The first Oystercatcher! 

Wont be long before the first avocets are back - there were 68 down at Reads Island during the WEBS on Saturday while dodging Dennis!

Reads Island is looking particularly good at the moment - will be interesting to see what happens this breeding season with it now joined to the mainland which allows ground predators over. 

  

The duck too have been enjoying the sanctuary of the reserve with good numbers of wigeon and teal, now in their breeding finery, there are also gadwall, shoveler, shelduck, tufted duck, and a couple of goldeneye mixed in with the coot, mute swans and little grebes. There's been three whooper swans occasionally gracing Ousefleet lagoon particularly during the peak of the storms. Water rails seem to have been scarce this year, possibly due to many areas in the wider countryside being wet and dispersing their numbers, but recently there has been a few starting to squeal around site towards the late afternoon. 

The wigeon really are looking in fine fettle

Whooper swans at Ousefleet captured perfectly by Mike Booth

Goldeneye

Birds of prey have just been fantastic this winter with over the last week all three hen harriers recorded, the male at the end of last week and the two ringtails roosting with the 12+ marsh harriers. Just a reminder that until Wednesday 19th Feb Singleton hide is closed until 3.30pm each day, this is to allow the team to replace three of the wooden hide supports that are rotten. During the day though there has been regular sightings of the hen harriers, while the buzzards are ever present as are the kestrels, while towards the afternoon the barn owls are hunting well and the odd sparrowhawk hunts the reedbed.  

Hen harrier in the middle of Storm Dennis - a total master of the skies just see how it rides the wind!

And the male from last week by Mike Booth

A still of the ringtail

The Cettis warblers are now getting into full song, and there has been a nice mix of smaller birds around site despite the gales, fieldfares, a small murmeration of starlings some evenings, the odd yellowhammer, tree sparrows, a few linnets, couple of female bullfinches, stonechats often hovering above the reedbed, reed buntings, and a few bearded tits calling from around the lagoons. There has also been up to two water pipits flying around Ousefleet lagoon and occasionally a single bird at Singleton. 

Yellowhammers are such beautiful birds - this was along the hedge on Friday

  

The tree sparrows are now inspecting the nestboxes - its national nestbox week this week, have you got your nestboxes ready or up?

 My attention over the last week has also been drawn to all sorts of interesting goings on around site, some of which maybe only a few people would notice? Well yes I suppose I've also been carrying out work in areas where the public can't go, but not all, some has been visible from the paths. 

Storm damaged trees, these provide different niches for insects and fungi, I've been intrigued at how they have split, something which would be very difficult to achieve through cutting. 

Willow 1

Willow 2 

Natural art in the reedbed (no not Au natural!), these reed stems floating in the flooded tidal reedbed were in areas we had cut, this brash has formed an intriguing mosaic - mother natures artwork.

Shortly after I'd set this level pipe running at the back of Singleton lagoon I was left a fish bone filled calling card, an otter spraint

Another bit of natural management, this time from the boys (Our Konik ponies), I've put them into Ousefleet lagoon for a bit to create natural grazing and edges to the reedbed, including features such as nibbled trees for deadwood and variation, and wet muddy margins. This area is one of the places where we have recorded the nationally rare Crucifix ground beetle which likes this sort of disturbed margin.

Have a look too at this video of one of the ponies pulling out and eating part of a tree root - you'd never get the same result by doing it yourself - and you'd wear your teeth down! 

In one of the hides recently I had this Dotted border moth - they are common and do emerge in February.

I've also got a little more motivated to try and identify some of the Fungi again. 

This velvet shank was near reception - an edible fungi that is common on the willows

And a nice example of Phellinus pomaceus a bracket fungi that grows on blackthorn 

Stags horn fungi

So despite the weather the reserve is pretty good at the moment, and with hides to protect you from the weather don't sit inside wondering what you are missing, as long as its not too bad get yourself out and see what you can see.  

 

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