After a summer break whilst we got on top of running the reserve in a Covid-safe manner, here's a first update on the last few weeks as we've moved into autumn. Well, after thinking the weather was turning a bit cooler it’s been a stunning week here, with brilliant sunshine and fantastic wildlife.
Excitement wherever you look despite the lack of hides in use! If you’re seeking raptors, we have had two mischievous juvenile marsh harriers most mornings playfully chasing the waders on the scrape. Then with a bit more serious effort the lightning fast peregrine stooping like a bullet just missing the nimble lapwings. Now with (ringtail) hen harrier back for the winter months, we have had a couple of very good views over the main scrape so keep your eyes peeled. We have still been getting fairly regular sightings of hobby, hunting late swallows and dragonflies, and sparrowhawk. Around midday on Wednesday we had a great but brief view overhead of a migrating osprey from the East Bank viewpoint.
Hen harrier (ringtail) by Paul Jubb
The wildfowl numbers are gradually increasing with plenty of duck around now from the not so shy mallard, to the understated gadwall, tufted duck, teal, wigeon, shoveler - these can all be difficult to identify at the moment as they go through their moulting eclipse plumage - and if you have some patience to scan the pools a male garganey, also in eclipse. Pink-footed geese are arriving back now with their distinctive squeaky voice and daintier appearance in comparison to the larger, louder Canada and greylag geese.
Female wigeon by Paul Jubb
Main scrape and Bridge screen sightings have recently included some attractive waders like greenshank, green and common sandpipers, ruff, snipe, dunlin, black-tailed godwit, lapwing, occasional spotted redshank, curlew sandpiper and the first little stint of the season on Thursday. Still being seen most days up to the start of the week is at least one spotted crake which we believe bred on the reserve again this year with two juveniles and an adult seen since mid-August.
Other areas of the reserve like the Reedbed screen have also been a source of great excitement with great egret often seen devouring huge perch. Bearded tit although very elusive are still in the reeds, it’s just a case of persistence and calm weather conditions. Cetti’s warbler can be heard most mornings now from the visitor centre decking, yellow and grey wagtails are around, heard and seen flying overhead. Chiffchaff, blackcap, goldcrest, wheatear, nuthatch, green woodpecker and kingfisher all seen recently too across the reserve.
Great egret by Carole Killikelly
A little gem of a mammal has been the occasional sighting of a polecat around the visitor centre area and down the driveway. A handful of visitors were lucky enough to catch it under the bird feeders on Wednesday.
Eight cattle egrets - a record count for the reserve - made a spectacular return to the reserve last weekend and in classic cattle egret style been entertaining us as they follow the cows around the main scrape like doting puppy dogs. The Bunker hide and temporary East Bank viewpoint are two great spots to view them on the main scrape, where they've been spending more time towards the end of the week, and have been joined by two more pushing our record up to 10!
Cattle egret by John Hewitt
The warden team have been working flat out recently. On top of their daily routine of keeping the reserve maintained, major repairs on the Marsh Covert hide, and path clearance for us all, they have absolutely smashed through the area of dense bramble so the contractors could start their work on the new Inner Marsh Farm boardwalk.
The team then moved onto the essential autumn island cutting on the main scrape, then Bridge screen and Marsh Covert hide clearing reed and rush. The week has also been filled with extensive mowing in the tractor out on the wet grassland area, opening views and clearing the taller dense vegetation like rush for the growing flocks of wildfowl and waders to feed on. This work is also essential to keep this area as wet grassland and to prevent natural succession turning it into a rushy field, wet woodland or reedbed to ensure we can attract as many of our target breeding waders as possible in the spring.
Scrape cutting, warden team by Liz Boone
New Boardwalk under construction by Dan Trotman
In case you missed the recent detailed blog, we have the Bunker hide and a temporary East Bank viewpoint open now.
The Gorse Covert woodland remains open and can be a delightfully quiet place to wander through and have a moment to yourself.
Don’t forget to spend time around the garden, before it closes for winter, and the meres while the sun shines - there are so many gorgeous dragonflies, damselflies and some wild and wonderful looking flies and day-flying moths to still see.
Yellow-haired sun fly by Julie Rogers
Pimpla rufipes by Julie Rogers
You can also walk all the way up to Burton Point where if you get there first you may be lucky enough to spot the shy green woodpecker on the side of the bank.
Hot drinks and packaged snacks on offer for you to enjoy, and there are several picnic benches to use on site.
High Tide at Parkgate: Unfortunately, we won’t be in attendance this weekend as we would normally. We are encouraging everyone that may attend any of the high tides to please keep safe, look after yourselves and others and be mindful of the current government guidelines. There are several brilliant species to see down there including the return of the hen harrier and pink-footed geese, spoonbill, marsh harrier and great egrets are seen regularly too but you don’t need to be there on a high tide for any of these birds.
A little thank you: We appreciate the continued patience and consideration for others that our visitors have shown in these difficult times. Your sympathy on the constant changes we are all facing helps us immensely to continue the work we are doing in keeping the reserve running for you and to grab those moments of peace and much needed nature therapy.
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