Phew what a week its been here on the reserve with plenty to see all round including birds, insects and flowers, but certainly a busy week on the work front with plenty to keep the team busy as the Koniks had their feet trimmed by the farrier and our hay meadows were cut and bailed for hay. 

Hay ready to be baled on Horseshoe meadow

Waders passage is now certainly getting going at last with a semi-decent range and number starting to use the lagoons with at least 10 greenshank, 5 green sandpipers, 35 black-tailed godwits, 6 ruff, 23 snipe, spotted redshank, redshank, lapwing and little ringed plover. There has also been the odd sighting of avocet and up to 20 curlew on Ousefleet while whimbrel are currently moving and golden plover over the other day.  

Here's a few of my hurried shots when I got a moment

Green sandpiper - Xerox

Great to see a few juvenile redshank among the adults - were they from Whitton Island (see my last blog)

Snipe numbers are building very nicely

Greenshank

Adult black-tailed godwit - there were 34 on Townend this morning

The spoonbills continue to entertain although this morning there were only four in early days, but we have had peaks of up to 14 but there is usually at least some on site whatever time of day, also quite a few little egrets at times and water rails showing around the edges of the lagoons.

The spoonbills have been interestingly practising nest building and courtship on one of the islands on Singleton, you can see one of the nests now - its built out of dock seed heads!

Adult little egret on Marshland playing with a stick

Marsh harriers are still feeding young but some of the broods have now left site ready to face the big wide world, as it seems have the barn owls although you may still get a sight of birds feeding around the reserve on a morning and evening. 

Good to see plenty of growing duck and little grebe broods around site while the mute swan chicks are starting to look almost, I say almost full grown but still a while to go! There was also a report of great crested grebe on Singleton - a scarce bird on the reserve these days. 

These mallard chicks are from the relay broods and so are quite late but there are some that are younger! The breeding season can be quite prolonged. 

Certainly a bit of passerine movement with plenty of huiting willow warblers, late July and early august is a classic time for their passage southward, good to see my first lesser whitethroat too with my attention first drawn by its hard tack call. Plenty of reed and sedge warblers and even a reeling grasshopper warbler one morning near to Singleton hide but I couldn't clock it. 

Plenty of blackcaps, whitethroats and amazingly the Cettis warblers still producing young! Amazing to think that only 8 years ago people were asking me were they breeding on the reserve and I had to say no. 

Baby Cettis from Monday!

Interestingly yesterday a small flock of juvenile bearded tits were showing signs of erupting, this usually occurs in September/October after their complete moult but I have seen it once before a few years ago, I suspect it indicates a productive breeding season. Good too to see that yesterday and today the beardies were showing much better than of late around the hides. 

Another bird that is still producing plenty of young are the tree sparrows, they are having yet another amazing season with also plenty of birds using the whole reserve and a flock of 120 in one part away from the visitor area. But still plenty around the hides and car park with probably in excess of 200 birds across the site. For some reason we just seem lucky with our tree spuggies, they just keep producing. 

Hungry or what!

Other notable sighting have included regular tree creeper at Ousefleet, great spotted woodpecker and plenty of yellow wagtails around with some feeding on the lagoons

Look out for a few of our mammals too with roe deer, brown hare and stoat around recently while it was really good to see a live and healthy hedgehog scuttling through the work yard this morning, the first one I've seen in many a year that wasn't dead on the road. 

Stoat along the paths

A bashful hedgehog

Insects have been pretty good in this tropical heat wave with plenty of butterflies emerging including speckled woods, peacocks, Essex skippers, small and large whites, common blue, small tortoiseshells, and then a few ringlets, meadow browns left.

Essex skipper

The dragonflies are emerging everywhere and drawing in the hobbies too! Certainly loads of black-tailed skimmers and common blue damsels but not had time to ID some of the larger dragons who haven't stood still for someone like me who can't! 

Black-tailed skimmer

Lots of marmalade hoverflies about too! bit friendlier than the horseflies!!!

A few plants to look out for along the trails includes the marsh sow thistle which is at its best now especially near to Singleton hide, also see if you can spot the rough hawkbit and burr chervil along the paths

Burr chervil

Rough hawkbit (although it may be autumn hawkbit! - must check)

The magnificently giant marsh sow thistle

Meadows need management!

Hay baled and ready for off - resetting meadows is important to keep diversity

As i mentioned earlier we have cut our Horseshoe meadow arable to meadow conversion, hay time is probably the most significant event in a meadow year - its always a decision to mow by a Warden that is very much a judgement call as to what is best all round. Interesting one or two people have wondered why we have cut early, well the answer is that  A June cut is early for a meadow while a late July cut is verging on the late. Some times meadow can be cut in August but you run the risk of it becoming rank and smothering out the early and more delicate species. Ideally you need to judge a time when you can cut good hay, balance out the need of the flowers and insects and ensure you don't let the more dominant plants spoil the diversity. Mid to late July is just about right for most meadow although of course there will be some where there are rare species that need a little longer but there are others that will benefit from an earlier cut as this often strangely allows later flowering plants to flower without being cut early - if you can understand me! The proof is in the pudding - how many farmers ever cut in August or September in the past, not many and there cutting produced good meadows. It was only when fertiliser and selective weed killers were introduced did we lose our meadows. 

And yes it would be nice to cut our meadow over a period of time covering June to August, but this is not always possible when you rely on other to make the Hay with their machinery! Sometimes you just have to strike a balance. 

But also note, the meadow will grow and many flowers will bloom again this year! As it wont be grazed early this allows another flowering season for many plants!

A couple of pictures of the late flowers from the meadow - sad to cut but it will in the long run do them good!

Betony - a lovely late flower 

And yarrow of the pink variety - it seems later than the white for some reason. 

 

And I'll leave you with yet another calf born this week on the Marsh! Looking very 'sheepish' (if thats the right word) next to his proud mother.

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