With numerous birds coming and going as we head further into the spring, the arrival of a grey phalarope on 14/3 was undoubtedly the biggest surprise of the past month, and of the year so far (photo of a bird seen previously by Marc Hughes). Most UK sightings of these small wading birds occur in autumn, with only three previous records on the reserve. This bird will most likely have spent the winter in tropical waters off west Africa, and would have been moving up into the north Atlantic towards it's arctic breeding grounds. They normally migrate far off the coast so it's likely that stormy weather will have brought it up into the Irish sea where it eventually found the reserve. It remained for 10 days on the shallow lagoon where it was seen by many visitors up until 23/3.
Other highlights included a short-eared owl seen briefly on 30/3, a goshawk over on 7/4, a summer plumage Mediterranean gull on 13/4 and female marsh harrier over the deep lagoon on 14/4. Two Egyptian geese seen on 23/3 were also unusual having not been recorded on the reserve before, however like many exotic wildfowl species these were undoubtedly feral birds, either themselves escapees or descendants of birds of captive origin.
Meanwhile more summer migrants have continued to arrive following several exceptionally early arrivals around the end of February. Dates of the first sightings of the year for new arrivals so far include swallow on 11/3, willow warbler on 29/3, house martin on 5/4, sedge warbler on 10/4 and common sandpiper on 12/4. Other passage migrants have included wheatear which was unusually late this year with the first sighting on 29/3, white wagtails since 24/3, and redstart which was seen on 11/4 and again on 13/4.
While the summer migrants arrive, our winter visitors continue to leave with noticeable reductions in numbers of pochard, shoveler and mergansers on the lagoons, and an absence of goldeneye since 6/4. A pair of great crested grebes remain on the deep lagoon and have been displaying, while coots can now be seen sitting on their nests. Small numbers of goosander have also been present intermittently while other notable wading birds have included small numbers of black-tailed godwit along with individual greenshank and bar-tailed godwit on several days in March.
Up to two Lesser redpolls were present around the bird feeders in the wildlife garden area on 9/4 and 12/4, a rather late appearance from this species having had no previous records over the past winter. A nuthatch on 10/4 was another scarce bird for the reserve, although one with an increasing number of sightings over the last year.
With spring well under way there's now a good variety of insects on the wing with various butterflies including brimstone, orange tip, common blue, speckled wood, comma, peacock and red admiral. Bees have also been recorded including white-tailed, buff-tailed, red-tailed, tree and early bumble bees.
Events held on the reserve over the past month have included a seasonal themed event for children entitled ‘Signs of Spring’ on 23/3, and a Mother’s Day event also for children, ‘Nature’s Mums’ on 31/3 along with free entry to the reserve for all mums. A Gardener’s Market was held on 14/4 which proved very popular, while regular events included weekly volunteer led Wildlife Walks on Saturday mornings, ‘Muddy Puddles’ for toddlers on Wednesday mornings, Nordic Walking and Tai Chi Workshops for adults each Thursday, and a Farmer’s Market, as always on the last Wednesday of the month on 27/3.
There are plenty of children's events not to be missed over the Easter holidays including Easter Egg Hunts on Easter Sunday and a Fun Play Friday on 26/4. Meanwhile our ‘Wake up with the Dawn Chorus’ walk on 5/5 still has places left and will be a great opportunity to head out early to see and hear a wide variety of our summer migrant birds in full song, before heading back for breakfast in the coffee shop.
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