Well its certainly not a typical April at all is it? With the reserve closed to all visitors, just two of us staff that aren't furloughed and then a dry April with constant nagging North Easterly winds then there is nothing typical about it in many regards!
But then for much of the wildlife its business as usual, albeit slightly affected I suspect by this weird spring weather. Also writing the blogs so far apart seems to be quite difficult at this time of year as so much seems to happen over a 10 day period but I'll do my best to update you.
Here's a bit of spring to listen to first - yes there are 3 species of warbler singing but then listen to the cracking of the reed - I really love these very small details that make up the reserve.
Last week I was starting to get an inkling that there was quite a lot of bittern activity on site and this was confirmed at the weekend (don't ask me which day its all a blur at the moment!) with some amazing scenes above the reserve when three bitterns chased each other for about 5 minutes as our resident male boomed from the reedbed. I also had two other sightings and was not fully sure if they were related to the three birds. I suspect some of these may be migrants heading back after winter to their breeding grounds in Scandinavia but being blocked as they head east by the strong headwinds. Here's some of my better photo's.
I suspect this is a male and female
All three together - a bit like Hilda Odgens ducks (I'm showing my age now)
And a couple more
Look at this male's front feathers (they can push them out like a ruff to make themselves look bigger), amazing rich chestnut, I don't think I've ever seen a bittern quite like this one - magnificent!
The marsh harriers too have been pretty amazing as they seem to be reclaiming the visitor area as their own, lots of birds around with a minimum of 10 possibly 12 pairs attempting to breed this year. I also seem to sense that the black-headed gulls will not breed this year in any number as the proximity of the harriers seems to be causing constant disturbance to the colony. Also a few buzzards about possibly also being delayed by these strong winds but could be local breeders, not sure how we are going to re-open the reserve if some of these birds decide to nest in the wrong places!
The crows at the weekend were hammering the marsh harriers - they even grounded this male!
While this bird was hunting with intent
Certainly one species that seems to be benefiting from the closure are our stock doves with several pairs in places they wouldn't normally nest including a cheeky pair that were nesting under Xerox hide! Certainly the ones in front of Ousefleet have been in cracking plumage.
Summer migrants have certainly been gradually arriving with the first swifts and reed warbler yesterday. Also sedge warblers, whitethroats, blackcaps, willow warblers, chiffchaffs are all singing away.
Nice to see up to 17 yellow wagtails feeding around the Konik ponies this year, some being particularly cheeky as they pick around the head and legs of our gentle giants. Also mixed in are a few pied wagtails, meadow pipits and skylarks.
Yellow wagtails and Chip the Konik
Around the reedbed and lagoon edges the bearded tits have been very busy making the most of the chironomid hatchings, I suspect some pairs will now be feeding young and with the ambient temperature deep in the base of the reed being higher out of this cold wind they should be doing quite well. The tree sparrows are seemingly delaying nesting a little but the Cettis warblers are singing away from all around the paths.
And nice to see a few corn bunting this year out across the local arable areas. This species is very much teetering on the brink in many places so good to see it holding on. Also known as the corn thief, Henry 8th put a bounty on its head - in fact like he did for many animals he didn't like!
North easterlies really do not promote wader migration as like the bitterns they put a blocker against heading towards Scandinavia and Iceland. So its been a little odd with lots of water and certainly not quite as many waders as you'd think should be. Those birds that are mostly here are those that have wintered around the estuary or arrived to breed like the avocets, black-tailed godwits, lapwing, redshank, spotted redshank, and the odd ruff. A small party of golden plover flew over the reserve, and yesterday I 'booted' a late jack snipe as I inspected one of the fences we are having to replace.
Black-tailed godwit in full summer plumage
Spotted redshank sleeping this morning - there are two side by side
Highlight though yesterday was the first whimbrel that had been grounded as they headed to Scandinavia with one bird in particular giving some superb views as I sat in the truck shepherding the newly arrived cattle and sheep. Not often you get such relaxed views of feeding whimbrel, I just love their humbug heads!
Here's a few of the whimbrel
And a bit of video
Also affected by the NE blow yesterday were about 20+ arctic terns that were feeding down on the very choppy Trent falls, apparently being joined today by a common tern seen from one of my friends windows that overlook the river.
another bit of video of the terns - well worth a watch to the end
Duck have been quite subdued but one or two things to report, like the two pink-footed geese that turned up last week just for a day and fed with the greylags, I always thought it was the greys that were the ones that lagged behind (its how they got their name).
Pinkfoot - both birds wouldn't stand together, they must have had a bit of a domestic!
Worryingly not many pochard though with just one pair currently present on site, such a nice bird we usually have a good build up at this time of year.
And off course spring always springs when the greylag chicks start appearing, they tend to be nuclear bomb proof apart from attracting a few birds who do have a perchance for them! Certainly they do help the marsh harriers along so for me bring on the greylags!
Defiantly stay close to mother little ones!
Just look at this monster great-black backed, what a beast and certainly looking for the odd greylag chick or two for dinner!
With at least lots of sunshine the flowers and insects are providing a bit of a distraction - here's a selection of a few things I've snapped over the last week or so.
Ladies smock sometimes known as cuckoo flower, I presume because it flowers when the first cuckoo's arrive.
Male orange tip butterfly
bee-fly, its been an amazing year for bee-flies in the uk and the reserve has been no exception.
I was wondering what species of solitary bee this was but not sure if its just not covered with pollen? Any ideas anyone.
Small white butterfly - but there seems to be no green-veined whites or commas about at the moment
Bumble bee and cowslip
Some species of drone fly? On Eddie's white cherry
And a lovely peacock butterfly
I'll end with a picture of a lovely buck roe deer
Stay safe everyone - and just in case anyone thinks we aren't doing any work - we've been repairing over 3 km of post and wire fencing as well as 1km of electric fencing, all photo's etc have been taken while shepherding and working or having a dinner break.
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