It’s approaching the end of March here at the reserve which means its officially spring and the change in season has brought loads of exciting new visitors to the reserve.  The habitat work on the reserve has led to the development of a new scrape and this has been a huge success in attracting many different species of birds. Lapwing have been spotted enjoying the scrape along with over 30 curlews. Oystercatchers have also been spotted enjoying the scrape, these large black and white wading birds have a distinct long orange-red bill and pinkish legs and in flight they can be easily spotted with their wide white wing-stripe. They can be spotted on most UK coasts where they tend to breed but over the last 50 years more and more birds have started to breed inland which may be due to the decrease in food that is available for them in the sea to feed their young.



Oyster catcher enjoying the scrape


There have been plenty of exciting newcomers enjoying the scrape as both ringed plovers and little ringed plovers have been spotted. These two birds look very similar with their distinctive black and white head pattern although the ringed plover has a white wing bar while the little ringed plover has a brown wing bar. The little ringed plover first started breeding in the UK in 1938 and has since taken advantage of many man made gravel pits, quarries and reservoirs that provide fantastic habitats. While little ringed plovers are doing well in the UK, the ringed plover hasn’t shared the same success. They are currently of conservation concern due to their decline in wintering numbers and the reasons behind this are currently unknown. Redshank have also been spotted on the scrape as well as an exciting sighting of a dunlin.



Little ringed plover photographed on the scrape


Recently a black-tailed godwit was spotted enjoying the scrape which is very exciting as these large wading birds are also red listed and of conservation concern. These birds are very beautiful with their long beaks and legs, the females are bigger and heavier than the males and also have a longer beak and this helps the sexes to avoid competing with each other for food. Black-tailed godwits form pairs that can last for up to 25 years and every year the couple will meet up at the breeding grounds mate and raise their chicks together. Unfortunately, black-tailed godwits have faced dramatic declines since the beginning of the 19th century due to natural wetlands being drained as well as an increase in hunting. The UK is home to a small population of breeding black-tailed godwits and its hopeful that current conservation efforts can continue helping to increase their numbers.



Black-tailed godwit enjoying the scrape


There have been plenty of small birds spotted around the reserve. The feeders have been busy with blue tits, great tits, goldfinch and chaffinches. There has been chiffchaff spotted around the visitor centre. These delightful warblers have a distinctive tail wagging movement and are normally heard before they are seen with their well-known "chiff chaff chiff chaff" song. There have been sightings of siskin on the Aird meadow as well as around the visitor centre and greenfinches have also been active along the Aird Meadow. Greenfinches are stunning birds with their beautiful green and yellow colouring. They are a well-known garden visitor taking full advantage of bird feeders. Unfortunately, their populations declined during the late 1970s and early 1980s although increased again in the 1990s. Their numbers have recently begun declining again and this has been due to an outbreak of trichomoniasis, a disease caused by a parasite that prevents birds from being able to feed properly which highlights the importance of keeping your bird feeders clean to prevent the spread of this terrible disease.



Greenfinches on the feeders


Other sightings around the reserve include over 90 goldeneye and over 100 tufted ducks counted on the Aird Meadow loch. There has been some fantastic sightings of great crested grebes on the Barr loch and Aird Meadow loch as well as goosander and teal on the Aird Meadow loch. Lesser redpoll have been reported on the Barr loch trail, the Aird Meadow and the Dubbs trail. An exciting non bird sighting this month has been an abundance of common frogs along the Aird meadow trail.



Great crested grebe on the Aird Meadow, Photograph by Richard Bennett