It’s been a while since the last update from the reserve and there’s been quite a few developments and notable wildlife sightings during this time as spring migration gets underway.

A particular highlight was the presence of five garganey including four males and a female which put in an appearance on the shallow lagoon on 19/3 (library image by Ben Andrew, RSPB Images). This is an unusually high number to be seen together, with all previous reserve records being just one or two birds at a time, and is also much earlier in the year than when we normally see them. This pattern was reflected across the country around this time when there was evidently a large influx of the species into the UK as they moved northwards from their wintering grounds in Africa into northern Europe.

There are also many birds still hanging on from the winter, and another highlight has been up to three scaup, with a male and female having been present for several months since late November, and a second male joining them recently since 21/3.

Wading birds have produced some notable sightings including spotted redshank on several dates during February and March, with two birds present on 4/2 and single birds on other occasions. A jack snipe was seen along the estuary track on 19/3, and black-tailed godwit have recently become more frequent as they move northwards to their breeding grounds in Iceland, with a peak so far of 22 birds on 26/3. Other waders of interest have included greenshank on several dates with peaks of six birds in late January and February, and occasional sightings of knot during February and early March, usually with two birds present each time.

Other wildfowl of interest has included good numbers of shoveler, typically with around 30 or more birds present, and a peak count of 38 on 28/2. Pochard have also remained in smaller numbers, with up to six birds present around the end of January. Merganser have been frequently seen although in slightly lower numbers than usual with a maximum of 10 birds on 21/2, and a female goosander has also been a regular sighting around the deep lagoon. Goldeneye seem to have been largely absent over the last couple of months, with just one brief appearance from a male on 21/2.

A Mediterranean gull on 21/2 was another notable sighting, while good numbers of black-headed gulls have recently included two colour ringed birds from Poland, giving us some idea of where these birds are coming from.

Migrant passerines have also started to appear in recent weeks, with numerous singing chiffchaff now present around the reserve. Sand martins made their first appearance on 12/3, while blackcap was first heard singing on 18/3, and three willow warbler were heard on 22/3 although it seems the latter were just making a brief stop off on their journey elsewhere as we’re yet to record any more since then. Other passage migrants have included a wheatear on 21/3 and white wagtail, the continental race of pied wagtail which will be on their way north to Iceland, on 12/3 and 13/3

The warm and sunny weather in recent days has brought numerous butterflies out, including peacock and small tortoiseshell from 18/3, comma and red admiral from 19/3, and a brimstone seen on 22/3.

Meanwhile work was completed in late January to re-landscape an area of the shallow lagoon in front of the coffee shop. This has brought the water a little closer to the building, deepening areas so that more water will be retained when the levels drop in late summer, with gently graded margins to provide suitable habitat for feeding water birds.

More recently we have had a viewing screen installed alongside the path by the bird feeding area. We plan to further develop this area, adding more bird feeders and a wildlife pond, as well as creating a wildflower area to encourage pollinating insects, and fruit and berry trees around the edges to provide further feeding opportunities for birds.

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