May already and of course typically the weather just isn't doing what it ought to, those northerly winds just don't want to give in and then no rain or sign of summer, but then my last blog did warn of the uncertainty of spring weather.
One thing though that is certain is that the reserve is still well and truly locked down for visiting, work however continues apace especially with the arrival of the cattle this week onto the Ousefleet grazing marsh and then the logistic planning that is going into getting the vet and farrier in next week to trim the Koniks hooves. There's going to have to be some serious in thought towards social distancing for us all!
Bird wise its been up and down depending on the wind conditions, migrants have been continuing to arrive with lesser whitethroats, swifts and cuckoo again and a few more reed warblers arriving. Its also a good year for grasshopper warblers with a good number reeling around the areas I'm working. Grasshopper warblers are an odd species that I suspect from year to year shift their breeding areas within the UK depending on local weather and condition of the habitat, last year we had low numbers but then other reserves recorded record numbers, this year we are back to good numbers so it will be interesting if anyone has managed to get a feeling for their sites in the lock down and what their population is like.
Here's an obliging grasshopper warbler near to one of the sluices that did a bit of reeling for the camera, see how it runs up the reed!
The one that got away was a bird I heard calling its distinctive jingling call as I was checking the ponies yesterday afternoon, a serin, as I was walking through a bit of scrub I couldn't see the bird and by the time I emerged it has flown off or into cover. That's only the second reserve record for serin but it would have been good to have confirmed with a view and picture.
All the breeding birds are getting on quite well despite the cool weather at times, I'm hoping that the weekends temperatures don't go too low that they will cause problems for the marsh harriers and bearded tits particularly the latter which have young. There is also another big series of tides and this may possibly re-flood the reserve as they are pushed up the estuary by northerly winds. The breeding season is always a worrying time for a Warden when there has been so much effort put in by many people to get the habitat just right.
Marsh harriers just after mating
Our avocets are doing quite well this year although they have nested in one of the most vulnerable places they could have, I was just thinking how fox activity was low when who should appear and walk past the colony as butter wouldn't melt in his mouth, Mr fox.
Avocets chasing a marsh harrier
And sly old Reynard, they often predate the avocet eggs when the young start to call in the egg and chip to get out.
Breeding season is very much tooth and nail and I often find it hard to watch some of the dramas that unfold, like the lapwing flying along the river that was caught by a male peregrine, I wouldn't of minded too much but the lapwing almost flew into the peregrines talons as though it welcomed its end, maybe it wasn't very well? Whatever it got eaten, the male never took the food off site so I assume it's nesting attempt has failed this year or is an unpaired bird.
Peregrine eating at the back of Ousefleet.
And then watching a nice brood of 10 mallard ducklings, when suddenly this heron walked over and plucked one from behind the mother duck, swallowing it whole after dipping it in water to help it down its long neck. Hard to watch but then nature is not all sugar candy coated....
Please do not watch if you are of a sensitive nature
Garganey have been like hens teeth this spring in contrast to the last two, no surprise really with the constant nagging North Easterlies, so it was nice to see our first one of the year on Saturday although I haven't seen it since.
The brent goose stayed for 3 days and was last seen swimming up the River Ouse!
Waders have been very slow with all this northerly weather blocking migration, in the last 24hrs there has been some indication that they are moving with 3 whimbrel and 2 dunlin but otherwise its been mostly the waders that have wintered such as curlew, black-tailed godwit, redshank and then on tide up to six spanking spotted or as I like to call them by their alternative name dusky redshank.
Curlew in breeding plumage
These have been joined by a mixture of different spoonbills from time to time with a peak of 5 birds, its amazing to think that only a few years ago spoonbills were still only seen every now and then, fantastic to see this species after many years of promise getting a firm foothold in the UK. This mirrors in my eyes how bittern increased and again a species that is now reident in summer on site, something I was tasked with 22 years ago to manage the Blacktoft reedbed to attract breeding bittern.
A couple of immature spoonbills who were on Xerox
Our more regular breeders and local birds have been providing some nice entertainment with one day the little grebes who were having a great big fight on Singleton lagoon, although small they can be very feisty little critters who will if needs be battle to the death and kill each others young!
I liked this picture as it appears the greylag is coming in to break up the fight!
And while undertaking some work on the grazing marsh its been nice to get some good views of yellow wagtails and reed buntings both in great plumage, while also noticing the meadow pipits are feeding young in the nest.
Male reed bunting
Mippit with food
Not so many black-headed gulls nesting this year as the marsh harriers are uncomfortably near, but this one was mating early today.
and the small colony is still attracting the odd Mediterranean gull this sub-adult (black tips on the wings) was on site the other day, you could hear it calling from the reserve gates!
Very pleasing to see our wild flower meadows doing well despite the lack of rain with plenty of flowers emerging to help feed the insects. Very nice to see the first yellow rattle flowering, also called the hay rattle as when the seed pods rattled it was time to cut the hay. Many people say yellow rattle is a key plant to making a good meadow, I'm not so sure about this, I think it is more to do with how well the meadow is managed in terms of its cutting and removal of the following grass regrowth either by aftermath grazing or cutting and getting a few 'willing' volunteers to rake and remove!
And how about this nice micro moth on the dandelion head - a sign that spring is moving on.
And to finish with a bit of good news, three years ago I was introduced to a very nice gentleman who farmed on the Yorkshire Wolds and had created a stunning 30 acre hay meadow on his farm, he was after some green-winged orchid seed which luckily I could supply thorough a field we manage for another farm. 3 years on and yesterday Martin called me to say he had 17 flowering green-winged orchids. Sometimes conservation is about working together and helping others, yesterday this news brought me as much reward as any of the projects I've ever been involved in.
Spreading the love - green-winged orchids are one of my favourite orchids.
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