There is no doubt that spring has arrived this week, with some beautiful warm sunny weather and clear skies bringing out many different insects and the first noticeable arrival of summer migrants. Ironically, with the clocks spring forward an hour on Sunday for the start of British Summer Time, it looks like temperatures are set to drop again.
I was very excited to discover a sizeable clump of frog spawn in my tiny garden pond this week, the first time our frogs have decided to lay spawn. I just hope next week's frosts don't cause any problems.
Equally exciting was seeing my first dark-edged beefly of the year feeding around a patch of primroses in the woods. This is my favourite early spring insect. Beeflies look and behave like small bumblebees, but with a long tongue sticking out. They are parasites, laying their eggs in the nests of bees.
Beefly by Steve Everett
I've also seen several species of bees this week, including buff-tailed bumblebees, hairy-footed flower-bees, honeybees and early colletes bees - the latter are very active around the sand martin nest bank - as well as brimstone, comma and red admiral butterflies.
The male adders around the sand martin bank have now sloughed their old skins and are looking particularly dapper. They are, however, not so easy to see now that the first females are emerging and tempting the males away from the favoured basking spots. This male was curled up next to the pond yesterday morning, for example.
The first sand martins, swallows, blackcaps and sedge warblers have all been reported this week, though just odd birds, so none are yet predictable. A wheatear has been seen near the sluice, and another black redstart spent yesterday in the car park area.
On the Scrape, we've had a couple of sightings of garganeys, and there are now several Mediterranean gulls, ringed plovers and oystercatchers among the growing numbers of avocets and black-headed gulls. Lapwings and redshanks are displaying too.
Lapwing by Steve Everett
In contrast, numbers of ducks continue to decline as they return to their breeding areas farther north and east, with just the odd pintail remaining and no sightings of the pair of smew since the beginning of the week.
Our other long-staying rarities both remain, though both the glossy ibis and lesser yellowlegs are now becoming more elusive. Two jack snipe have been seen today, at Bittern Hide and North Hide - late March/early April is a good time to look for these tiny waders as they pause on their spring migration. One or two woodcocks are also still around.
Within the reedbed, the marsh harriers are displaying and gathering nesting material, bearded tits are best seen along the North Wall, reed buntings are becoming more visible, and bitterns can be heard booming more regularly. If you are lucky you might spot one flying above the reeds, or even catch a rare glimpse of a singing Cetti's warbler before the leaves emerge to obscure them from view again. Up to four great egrets are also present with the reedbeds. Little and great crested grebes can be seen displaying at Island Mere, and the early risers have had a couple of sightings of otters in the very early hours of the morning.
Little grebe by Jon Evans
The woods are full of birdsong: chiffchaffs, chaffinches, blue tits, great tits, marsh tits, robins, dunnocks and wrens. They're accompanied by the percussion of the drumming great spotted woodpeckers or the trilling of a couple of pairs of very vocal nuthatches. You'll have to listen carefully to pick out a treecreeper or goldcrest though.
Finally, and it seems strange to be saying that, red kites have been seen so often this month that I no longer rush outside to try to spot one! Who'd have believed that event just a couple of years ago!
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