The Magic Spell of Langford Lowfields

The magic spell was cast by a wizard of  a bird - a superb male merlin that flew south over Phase 1 whilst I was watching a light southerly passage of swallows. It flew over the eastern hedgerow and then over the slope in front of the viewing screen giving close views of its distinctive shape and fast flight, head pattern, and blue-grey upperparts and reddish underparts.  Perhaps it will linger on site or was just passing through – certainly worth keeping a look out for it; an immature male frequented the reserve last winter.

This morning I walked around the boundary footpaths to check the hedgerows for migrant birds, starting with the southern section first. The most obvious migration was the swallow passage, with 87 birds flying south in small groups in the four hours I was out (and I doubtless missed some). Amongst the swallows there were four sand martins (two singles and two together) – quite late birds for Notts.  Other visible migration was the seven siskins that flew south (2 and 5). Numbers of meadow pipits have built up with autumn migrants arriving on site and 31 were flying over Phase 3. Three chiffchaffs were present, with one bird singing in the woodland, and two goldcrests were busily feeding and calling in the eastern hedge.

Other bird highlights from a four hour visit this morning were a jack snipe and four common snipe on Phase 2. Duck numbers are slowly building and there were 11 shovelers on Phase 2 and 9 teal on Phase 3. Little grebes are still feeding young on Phase 3, where there are also juvenile great crested grebes and coots. When I moved to Newark in the late 1990s, seeing 5 little egrets would have been the highlight of a day’s birding at a site in Notts as they were still a very scarce bird in the county – easy to become blasé about species as they become commoner, but still enjoy seeing them, especially in low light (dusk, autumn and winter) when they seem to glow white.

Other wildlife was a brown hare and several insect species out in the sunny weather in sheltered areas: butterflies – a red admiral, two small tortoiseshells, two speckled woods, and a few small and large whites; dragonflies – migrant hawkers and common darters; a smart hornet and a Roesel’s bush-cricket buzzing away in a tussocky grass verge.