Howdy folks! Welcome back to the Frampton Marsh recent sightings. With me, Chris the Visitor Manager.

Please excuse the hiatus over the last month. Various reasons stopped us putting out the usual weekly sightings blog. We should be back on track now. Soon it will be Paige, our conservation intern, who will be writing these blogs. But in the meantime you have me once again.

Obviously with the covid-19 situation still ongoing we do recommend that if you are visiting the reserve you adhere to social distancing recommendations. Do keep others in mind, don't crowd together, and please allow others to gain access to the best viewpoints and hides.

Right, so what is about?

Well, we are in that crossover period now between winter and spring. A few early spring migrants are arriving, whilst there are still decent numbers of our winter visitors around. The first chiffchaff was actually way back on 3 March. The first one was at the visitor centre bird feeders (location 1), not a usual hangout! Since then they have been singing from the hedgerow (location 2), a far more usual place to find them. Wandering along the hedgerow might also gain you a Cetti's warbler. They are resident with us all year round, but in good voice at this time of year. The seat in the hedgerow also gives a great vantage point across the flooded fen fields (location 3). Ruffs and spotted redshanks have been here over the last week, and it will later become a good spot to look for garganey. Water rails have been seen (and heard) here too.

Over on the scrapes (location 4), wader numbers have been building.Though there has been a good deal of movement within the site, with the fields to both the north (location 5) and south (location 6) of the sea bank car park also proving popular. Avocets have been returning from their wintering grounds, and are back to pairing up. Up to 100 birds have been seen at once, and the number should increase further. Black-tailed godwits have numbered in the hundreds, with the odd bar-tailed godwit to be found amongst them. A little stint on the scrapes on 13 March will probably have been a bird wintering on The Wash, but is the first of the year for us. Also first for the year was a whimbrel over the scrapes on 18 March, a week earlier than usual!

Talking of returning birds, if you do visit you will notice rather more black-headed gulls around. They are back to stake out their claims for breeding territories, and add a raucous bustle to the reserve. The scrapes and reedbed (location 7) are usual hotspots. In amongst them you may be able to pick out the odd Mediterranean gull. With a full black head and cherry-red bill they can take a bit of looking for, but do keep your ears open as well. Their "yee-oww" calls are very different from the "rarr-rarr" of black-headed gulls.

OK, so far it has all about signs of spring. How about the winter visitors? Well, hen harriers and merlins are still being seen over the saltmarsh (location 8) and over the surrounding fields. It has been a sparse year for short-eared owl sightings, but one was also out over the saltmarsh on 13 March. Brent goose numbers continue to be good though, providing quite the spectacle when a flock all lifts off together. Rock pipits and a water pipit were in the top right corner of the wet grassland at location 5 during the WeBS count on 14 March. On the same day a party of red-breasted mergansers were at the river mouth (location 9). That day also saw a big movement of whooper swans, with a couple of hundred going over the reserve. Some might still be found on the fields to the south of the reserve (location 10). Talking of fields by the reserve and going back to spring arrivals, 3 wheatears were reported just off the reserve on 18 March.

Finally, some mammal news. The bank vole has been behaving beautifully underneath the visitor centre feeders, coming out and feeding most mornings. However with the closure of the visitor centre and hence no birdfood going out, it may disappear now. On a rather larger scale, the WeBS count on 14 March also found a harbour porpoise in the river mouth. And it has been March, so maybe no surprise that across the reserve our brown hares have been living up to their reputation of 'Mad March Hares', with plenty of chasing and fisticuffs going on.

Here is a map to help you make sense of the locations:

If you are coming to visit us, make sure to keep up to date with sightings by following our Twitter accountNo need to have an account yourself, we make it so everyone can see it. If you do tweet yourself, please remember to use #RSPFrampton so we can see what you are posting, and also ideally mention @RSPBFrampton. If you have any good photos (or video, or even artwork) we'd love to see that too. Tweet it, or share it on our Facebook page or our Flickr account. It may also be useful for you to know the weather and tide times for the site, which may well have an impact on what is showing. And once again, please do maintain social distancing and have respect for others who may also be visiting the reserve.

That is it for this week. So take care, wash your hands, and we will see you all next time!