This weekend saw the monthly WeBS count, where we scatter to the corners of the reserve and attempt to count all the waders and wildfowl - it's an important national count, going on all over the country, and provides a lot of data on our wintering birds. It's very much reliant on decent weather and favorable astronomy - a brisk wind will see most of the ducks hiding in the reedbeds, and a bright moon will mean that a lot of the geese are not on the reserve when we come to count them, but have stayed out feeding overnight. (So why count them on a bright night, you may ask? So did we - it's apparently linked to the state of the tides on the big estuaries such as the Wash and the Solway, where other WeBS counters are trying to estimate the number of waders out on the mud.)
Goose numbers are slowly rising again, with 15,500 pinkfeet counted leaving the reserve or remaining on our fields, about 3000 more than last month's count. Swans remain about the same, with 123 whoopers, and 44 mute swans. Duck numbers were down this month (a situation commented on by many other count sites on Facebook, and to be honest we don't know why - last month we had ice on the Loch and pools, which may have meant more were standing out in the open, but who knows!) with 83 goldeneye, 222 mallard, 35 tufted duck, 846 wigeon, 333 teal, four pintail, and two shovelers although shelduck have gone up to nine, and we also had eight very smart red-breasted mergansers and a single scaup. Wader numbers remain reasonably steady, with 206 curlew, 25 dunlin, 411 lapwing and two golden plover - there was a large flock of around 500 golden plover south of the St Fergus gas terminal in the afternoon. Our little egrets remain on site, with two seen feeding on the Savoch Low Ground.
Many of the birds are starting to show signs of the breeding season being on its way; the teal are definitely getting frisky, skylarks are singing and the great spotted woodpecker is drumming up a storm around the wildlife garden and outside the office. Snowdrops are in bloom and - just occasionally, when the sun is shining - there's a hint of spring in the air!
snowdrops - Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
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