Just a reminder that the reserve is shut to all visitors and locked down for only essential management duties such as shepherding the livestock, however I've managed a few photo's during my brief visits and checks that the ponies and site are all ok, fed and watered. 

Koniks enjoying some fresh water 

The arrival of Spring has been as per usual from recollection of past ones been held back a little longer than you'd expect by the cool weather, northerly winds and surprisingly drying conditions that this apparently high pressure system is producing. It may be helping the farmers get their spring planting done but like the wildlife their newly sown crops will all benefit from a few April showers, as will the grass for the grazing livestock.

There have been a few butterflies on the warmer sunnier days like this small tortoiseshell 

And lots of buff-tailed bumble bees establishing colonies

The drying and cool conditions seems to have affected the birds, but checking on the blog from the 5th April last year things were amazingly similar in terms of species and weather conditions. This time of year is always a busy time for some of our key species, marsh harriers are busy starting to nest, avocet numbers are building up, bearded tits too will be nest building and our bittern is booming big time, I could even hear in in the toilet block loud and clear adding some resonance to its alternative name of bog thumper!  

Avocet

Marsh harrier with nesting material

Its not often you see the fighting harriers touch each other particularly the wing - but this adult male certainly wasn't going to put up with this young male usurper in his territory!

Waders numbers have been much lower with the drier conditions meaning that the worms have gone deeper into the drying soil, but there has been a few ruff, redshank, lapwing and snipe plus good numbers of curlew. Only the odd black-tailed godwit around though and no sign of any passage waders, mind you not surprising with all these northerlies and no visitors on site. 

Ruff just getting its summer plumage

Snipe

Head on view

And curlew recovering after a peregrine attack - a bit of nervous washing and preening I think. (I have seen peregrine take curlew)

Redshank

Quite a few more herons feeding on site, they may have young now. A few little egrets arriving back too but it will be a while before they start to lay.

Little egret

A rather nice surprise yesterday though was the years first spoonbill, a lovely adult bird that fed rather voraciously and quickly on Xerox for a short while and then flew off westwards, was it going to the Aire valley. Hopefully and lets hope their spoonbill colony increases this year. 

The duck numbers as you'd expect are declining a little at the moment but there are still up to 5 goldeneye around, rather strangely and worryingly though there is only two pochard, we usually have a build up of these lovely duck with a few staying to breed but at the moment I don't know where they are. 

Goldeneye

Pochard male stretching its wings

I do like the female wigeon - such subtle beauties 

Many of the smaller resident birds have been busy nest building but there has been a bit of return passage of redwings and the odd fieldfare back east, the only summer migrants have been chiffchaffs and a possible singing blackcap yesterday but it for some reason never sung long enough and loud enough for me to fully confirm. 

Chiffchaff

Otherwise its been business as usual with reed buntings, cettis warblers, pied wagtails, a single water pipit showing a bit of summer plumage, and the usual suspects.  

Pied wagtail - male

Reed bunting - look at the colour on his back

The stock doves are still putting on a nice show

Thanks in part to the cold spell Horseshoe meadow is looking particularly nice with the grass growth held back as it really should be in a good wildflower meadow with low nutrients. Great to see a few cowslips poking up and the vetch starting to suddenly emerge from its winter slumber. I'm particularly looking forward to the meadow this year as it will be its third full year since establishment into this old arable plot, the diversity of flowers in it has really come on leaps and bounds which is something to be honest I still don't fully believe. 

Cowslip

Emerging vetch - sometimes its the small things that I enjoy - whatever the troubles with the world

If you'd told me when we started that there would be 70+ species of wild flower across the meadow, there would be plenty of yellow rattle and that the hay would be worth cutting for livestock in just three years I would maybe think you a little optimistic! We had got planned for this year to cut a path through the field to allow viewing of the wildflowers for a couple of weeks in June/July, it would be good to think that we were welcoming everyone back to the Sands for this and for at least part of the summer. 

Lets hope that by following strict guidelines and staying at home and by distancing we can all get back to protecting and enjoying the countryside. 

Now back to find the konik!

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