I am delighted to report that we've had a great year for nightingales on the reserve with at least 10 males singing around the nature trails.
Our first nightingale was reported very early on 4 April ( I usually predict they will arrive between the 10th and the 12th) but there was very little singing for the first couple of weeks. Perhaps the males who had arrived first realised that the females would be unlikely to be flying in the face of the cold northerly winds and felt that their energy would be best saved until the weather seemed more suitable for migration.
A couple of weeks later the action began and the nightingales have been performing brilliantly. Once they pair up it tends to be quieter for song and they are perhaps no longer going at 'full pelt' but the density of them this year does mean that if one starts to sing, it tends to set another one off. The best places to hear them are Fattengates courtyard and the little picnic area above Nettley's Hide.
Nightingale by Gary Trew.
Whilst the nightingale's song is impressive there is plenty of other birdsong to delight - blackcaps are still very vocal and there are daily reports of common and lesser whitethroat, garden warbler, sedge warbler and even Cettis's warbler (quite a newcomer to the reserve). Whilst I've been manning the 'welcome hub' on the edge of the courtyard I can hear the beautiful flutey decsending song of the willow warbler.
Out on the wetlands you could see lapwings and redshank with chicks or perhaps our pair of avocets.
With the warmer, sunnier weather we are beginning to see more insects too with butterflies including brimstone, orange tip and small heath reported so far this morning. Dragonflies and damselflies are also starting to feature more - look for exuviae on the vegetation of the raised pond in Fattengates courtyard for evidence of their emergence.
Dragonfly emerging at Fattengates pond - Anna Allum
The emergence of dragonflies also means there is more food for the hobby - up to 4 have been seen 'hawking' for insects over the wetlands.
Hobby by Graham Osborne
On the wooded heath, where there is welcome shade, the bluebells are just beginning to fade but the red campion and greater stitchwort light up the wooded floor. There are plenty of noisy wrens, but you could be lucky enough to see spotted flycatcher in the large oaks beyond black pond, or hear the woodlark singing as you sit on one of the benches up at the tumuli.
Nightjars have also arrived and can be heard churring in the evenings - we've just scheduled 3 Night-time safaris where we'll have exclusive access to the central part of the heath to look for and listen to nightjars, woodcock and bats. We are holding these on Wednesday 9 June, Thursday 17 June and Saturday 19 June. Advance booking is essential - you can find out more and book your tickets via our Eventbrite page here:
Please be aware that the car park and nature trails will be closing at 7 pm on these 3 evenings to all other than our event attendees.
Looking forward to seeing you at the reserve!
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