With the days still but only just drawing out and the June weather reinvigorating the avian breeding season it does seem that there is a change just starting as youngsters fledge and passage waders and duck return to site. Even the cuckoo is now starting to change his tune and will soon be looking to head south.
But yet for some species there is still a long way to go with no doubt that some of our late nesting ducks and the odd pair of marsh harrier if successful will fledge in September, mid summer is for these birds only just the beginning!
Even our little flotilla of mute swan chicks have a long way to go before fledging
It does seem strange though walking around site now as the vegetation grows longer around the path edges making it feel like Miss Havisham's house out of great expectations and the hides for this time of year eerily empty. Unfortunately re-opening them is currently out of our hands and is in government policy towards Covid 19 and the use of enclosed public buildings, when this will change is not known.
Secret squirrel on the path
But as always the site management and conservation goes on the best it can with just a small team of two currently working. The birds though are just getting on with it, or not as the case may be with some species this year. As last time all birds on the blog are seen while working, mainly during monitoring sessions for our key breeding species.
As intimated above a few things are starting to return back from their Northern breeding areas, failed breeders or unpaired birds there is now a steady passage of curlews west, a single ruff flying through last weekend and at least one green sandpiper lurking in the pool edges. There's now a few lapwings, avocet and a single redshank coming onto the lagoons on high tide but with water still relatively high most birds will favour the extensive shallows over at Alkborough.
Curlews moving east yesterday
But the high build up of gadwall has also seen a selection of other dingy moulting ducks to pick out from the masses, 4 wigeon, a pintail and at times up to 4 garganey two males and two females which does not bode well for any chances of them having bred successfully this year. Its certainly not a great year for breeding duck either but it was nice to see a few more broods of mallard this week, the four shoveler young doing well and a brood of 11 gadwall.
Shoveler chicks with their bills now growing big
Spot the pintail
Pochard have been markedly absent this year on the lagoons but these 7 males maybe indicates what the local breeding population is, maybe they spread out a little this year.
The marsh harriers continue to improve their prospects after a very shaky early season with now at least 9 pairs feeding young and one probably still incubating, With the April floods delaying breeding this year I suspect fledging will be into July, lets hope they produce a few young.
A male having a drink by the side of the lagoons
Still the odd sighting of hobby and peregrine along with buzzard, and barn owl, but this year it seems like the barn owls haven't nested in the box at Ousefleet.
All spoonbill sightings have been fly overs as they head from Fairburn to Alkborough but there are plenty of herons and little egrets feeding on the lagoons. They have been joined at times by the odd bittern but its now quieting down as it seems the young have fledged and the adults now don't have to fly they have melted back into the reedbed somewhat.
Little egrets - look at the plume length on the middle right bird
Bittern (you need to look behind the heron btw!)
And blending in with its surroundings
Certainly a few water rails scuttling between gaps in the reed and the first little fluffy black ball of a chick joined them today. Coot are hatching their second broods after a tough first brood with only 7 chicks surviving all on first lagoon, coot are declining all over Europe and it seems even in the UK many sites are seeing a decline - who would have though when I was a kid that I'd be worrying about if in 10 years we would have breeding coot.
A couple of interesting tern sightings this week, a little tern down the river which I saw very distantly and thought it was this species, later confirmed by the presence of one at Alkborough and then a common tern on Singleton lagoon this morning in the rain. We get so few terns these days so it was nice to see two species in June.
The warblers are now starting to fledge a few chicks alongside the resident birds with the first juvenile robin and blackbird seen. But tree sparrows are worrying this year, although they are still rearing young in the scrub areas it seems after the first brood in the car park nest boxes they have totally deserted. I've noticed that many of the fields this year around us are planted with oats which is very unusual for around here, these have had a lot of spray onto them and I just wonder if they aren't providing the usual insects that the wheat and barley do? Or did the dry spell affect the sparrows?
Adult grasshopper warbler with food for the chicks - mostly spiders
Tree sparrow - is the colony having problems this year?
The cuckoo seems to like having the reserve to himself and has been present at times constantly working the bushes and reeds, lets hope for a good crop of youngsters to help get us back to the numbers like we had way back at the turn of the century. There certainly seems to be a few hairy caterpillars around this year to help feed the adults and the meadow pipits are collecting good amounts of food of the grazing marsh.
A few caterpillars
The yellow wagtails seem to be having a few problems this year too with the pairs just seeming to keep failing and then going to feed around the koniks, not sure what this is related to but again it could be lack of insects or maybe these cold weeks we keep having.
Here is what Theo thinks about this female yellow wag feeding around his snozzle.
Diversity has been nice as lots of new insect species emerge despite the odd weather of cool mornings, boiling hot afternoons and then suddenly a cool sea breeze after 5pm.
Dragonflies have seen the first emperor, black-tailed skimmer, ruddy darter and common darters all emerging to join the four spotted chasers, azure damselflies and blue-tailed damsels.
Common darter - they look very similar when freshly emerged
Moths and butterflies have been a feature too with masses of meadow browns and a few large skippers being joined by the 2nd brood of some species such as small tortoiseshell. Quite a few five-spotted burnet moths were enjoying one of our nectar rich headlands - what a lovely day flying moth they are.
Five spot burnet moth
Some lovely plants now flowering helped by the recent rains including our pyramidal orchids in Horseshoe meadow, we also have another colony which is hidden away which numbered 166 on my count. Lovely orchids when in full flower.
Work has revolved around a few things this week, as usual shepherding and animal welfare took up a bit of time,
These are some of our graziers lovely blue texel and blue texel cross sheep - the crosses are the all black ones, they are grazing the marsh with the cattle
And I've been having to treat Splat one of our Konik stallions for this bit of infection in where his injection was to sedate him during foot trimming, I've seen it before on the other lads in past years and it isn't a big problem but always good to clean it with a bit of Hibbiscrub and then tee-tree cream on to sooth and stop infection.
It looks horrible though! But as its draining downwards its probably going to be ok.
It doesn't seem to effect him as seen by the reward he got with the others for standing still and allowing me to administer everything without a halter on, mind you he is a bit of a big baby really as I had to let him have a look at everything first and also tell him off when he turned around his back end ready to give me a wallop from his back hoof, he was amazingly well behaved after that! Who'd be a Warden...............
We also took the opportunity the other week to set in some of our nectar mix that we couldn't set in the bone dry spring, tilled over by tractor and an old Tine drag we set the seed by hand, now its coming up lovely after this rain, sometimes you have to act fast on this land to catch just the right time to set seed.
Rolling the seed in
As is all this Orache out on Ousefleet lagoon, we again Tine dragged the dry pool bed last Autumn to bring up the seed bed ready for this spring, its coming along lovely and should make for some great free duck food in the Autumn if we flood up around September time. In the past this area has supported over 4000 ducks thanks to the teams management over the last 30 years in this area.
The beginnings of a great and cheap food supply for our winter ducks - just starting to grow but today's rain and next weeks warmth will make it shoot up quickly.
And that's just about it for another week or so, stay safe and hope you enjoyed even though I know many of you miss the site, its turning out to be hard and long .
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