|Redshank (c) JR|
Despite the strong breeze this weekend, it really felt like spring. The wind was coming up from the south and on Saturday if you were out of the wind the sun was warm. The wildlife really reflected this change in the season with courtship and display going on everywhere, fresh butterflies, basking snakes and newly awoken bumble bees added to the picture.
The stars of the show are still the Golden Plovers although not present this week in quite such large numbers, we estimated a thousand or so. They are restless and wary. They spend a lot of time airborne with large flocks and sub-flocks crossing and blending overhead. It was described to me last week as a blizzard of birds and as they bank in the sunshine their bellies do flash white like storm driven snowflakes.
|Goldies (c) Bark|
|Blizzard of Goldie (c) Tom Nicholson Lailey|
Lapwings are now holding territory, the males making a number of shallow scrapes and displaying loudly and dramatically over them. The females select the scrape they prefer and after lining it with a little vegetation lay their clutch of four eggs into it. It was very noticeable this weekend that when any of the Red Kites passed overhead they were promptly challenged by five or six Lapwings. This is behaviour we have not seen since last year.
|Wren, Dunnock and Canada Geese all shouting (c) JR|
There were over twenty Curlew present on Saturday although by Sunday there were fewer seen. They are favouring the soft ground on the northern side of Greenaways. At times they appear and disappear as they are hidden or revealed by the deceptive rises and falls in the field.
|Redshanks (c) JR|
Of our other breeding waders it was noticeable this weekend how many more Redshank have appeared. They can be seen feeding around the edges of the scrapes and heard calling loudly when they fly. They are certainly present in double figures and as we go through the next few weeks their numbers will increase and their presence become even more obvious as they start to pair up and display. Snipe have yet to start “drumming” but there was a flock of over twenty flying around Greenaways on Sunday and isolated parties of two or three flushing up from the flooded grassland. Two Jack Snipe were found out at the Pill on Saturday and there was possibly another seen on Greenaways on Sunday. A Blackcap was singing intermittently at the Pill and two Stonechats were seen in the same place.
|Stonechat (c) Bark|
There are higher numbers of Stonechats around on the moor at present. It may well be a part of their migration back to the breeding areas, but with the number being reported from different parts of the reserve there are more than we had with us for the bulk of the winter. Our booming Bittern has gone quiet although the wind was not conducive to persuading a Bittern to call. The one heard for the last couple of weeks may have been an immature bird or perhaps a European winter visitor.
|Sparrowhawk (c) JR|
A very large female Sparrowhawk that was chasing the Goldies gave a us a moment of excitement but was indeed a Sparrowhawk and not something larger and more exciting!
A Ringed Plover, the first this year, was spotted feeding out on fields to the west of the trail to the second screen. The Bearded Tits are still with us, as at least one was heard from the reed fringing at the Noke end of Ashgrave. They become very secretive as they get into breeding mode and we can only hope that they might reproduce again successfully this year. There is still a much reduced, but according to reports very active Starling roost. I cannot believe that it will go on much longer as birds disperse either back to the continent or to breed in this country.
|Starling Roost (c) Tom Nicholson -Lailey|
A Grey Heron was sitting on the nest, out from the hide on Sunday. There have also been several Little Egrets loitering in the same area and perhaps this will be the year that we add them to our list of breeding birds.
With steady southerly winds our first passage migrants are due. I would not be surprised to find a Wheatear, perhaps Garganey or some other interesting bird coming through this week.
|Coltsfoot in bloom (c) Bark|