Having complained about not seeing the mythical white tailed eagles it seems someone was listening, and kindly sent three our way over the last couple of weeks (more importantly there were all on days when I was working so I could get a nice photo!). A great deal of interest is in the birds reintroduced from the Isle of Wight project, but it appears the birds over the reserve were from the continent and making the most of the strong winds and thermals to explore the UK coastline. You can find out more about the Isle of Wight eagles here: https://www.roydennis.org/category/sea-eagle/isle-of-wight-sea-eagles/
Other migrants this week include a grey phalarope – a passage wader from the Arctic, known as ‘red’ phalarope in the US where it shows in its breeding plumage, whereas we always see it in its grey winter plumage, hence the name. In a similar way to the red-necked phalarope you can identify it on the scrape as it has a technique of feeding where it is constantly spinning around.
Sedge warblers have also arrived, though the shock of the cold weather in the last week seems to have quietened their voices. Sand martins and swallows are also arriving and increasing each day as they hawk the winter gnats around the ponds and reedbeds.
Bitterns continue to boom, and today a female was seen flying across the reserve being pursued by two males. Marsh harriers and bearded tits have been seen frequently from the sluice trail.
Little gulls, avocets, Sandwich terns and black headed gulls continue to arrive on the scrape and like a lot of other East Anglian reserves we have also seen garganeys arrive, with three drakes on the scrape (several more appearing nearby at Carlton Marshes and Strumpshaw Fen).
Bumblebees, bee-flies and the first butterflies have appeared with the milder weather, though the wind and hail in the last week isn’t ideal for these emerging species. Tawny mining bees have appeared along Digger Alley, and thanks to volunteers Steve and Davene a new species of bee has been discovered on the reserve: early colletes bee Colletes cunicularius which was found by the sand martin bank and which we previously thought were Clarke’s mining bees.
Adders continue to show well on the Adder Trail and in the dunes, where Dartford warblers are also very active. As the Dartfords are a protected species and prone to disturbance we have installed a fence to make sure people don’t get too close to them, and volunteers are helping to educate some visitors to make sure everyone can enjoy them whilst also giving them plenty of space.
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