Monday, 1 February 2016

Saturday and Sunday 30th and 31st January

Stonechat (c) JR

It was another weekend when the sheer numbers of birds were almost overwhelming. The weather was fine on Saturday but on Sunday the low cloud and mist hid most of the action in the skies.
At times on Saturday morning the swirling, windblown flocks seemed to be across all of the northern and western horizons at once. There are clearly very large numbers of Lapwings and Golden Plovers resting on the drier southern edge of the flood Field. They flushed in response to Marsh Harriers, Red Kites and Sparrow Hawks. They were very flighty and nervous and at times they flushed for no obvious reason at all. It is fascinating to see that although the birds all go up together they very soon separate into species discrete groups, the Golden Plovers Higher tighter and faster than the Lapwings slightly more ponderous flocks below.

Swirling flocks of Lapwings and Goldies (c) Tom Nicholson-Lailey

The seed feeding beside the hide is again going well and is beginning to draw in the sort of numbers that we saw last year, on Sunday morning as P.G. trundled out his hopper and spreader small groups of Linnets appeared to be drawn in and sat waiting in the hedges along the track. I was reminded of the way that wild swans come in to collect food from the man with the wheelbarrow at Slimbridge or the Ouse Washes. The flock is composed of almost equal numbers of Reed Buntings and Linnets, but it contains a few Yellowhammers and Greenfinches, as well as larger numbers of Chaffinches and Goldfinches. Careful and patient watching could be rewarded by views of one or other of the Bramblings that are also in attendance.

Yellowhammers and Reed Buntings by the Hide (c) Derek Lane

There are a pair of Stonechats that can often be seen on the bulrushes just out from the hide another pair have taken up residence on the western edge of Greenaways, there is yet another to be seen at Noke and the last time I heard there were a couple out at the Pill. The two Grey Wagtails that have taken up winter quarters in and around the cattle pens have been joined by three Pied Wagtails. It is amazing that all five appear to finding enough sustenance to keep them going in such a small area.
Pied Wagtail (c) JR
We have one marsh Harrier that is catching fish something that I dont recall having heard of before.
Carrying a fish off to eat.(c) Norman Smith
Duck numbers across the reserve are still growing. One hundred and fifty Pintail this morning on the regular Webs count, approximately two hundred Shoveller, roughly a thousand Wigeon and six hundred or so Teal. The Wigeon in front of the hide are great to watch as they graze on the fresh grass, occasionally panicking and flying back into the water on masse, when not loafing or feeding many of them are displaying. Head bobbing, neck stretching and whistling their distinctive call.
Wigeon by the Hide (c) JR
Snipe are not so easy to see lying up beside the scrapes and pools on Greenways and are much more likely to be seen when flushed up from the grasslands by passing raptors. The Bitterns are still being seen regularly as they relocate within the reed bed and sometimes as they feed along the reedy edges near the second screen. Water levels look sure to rise over the coming few weeks, as this current stream of Atlantic low pressure systems continues to batter the country. The watery fields will attract feeding gulls and perhaps something more unusual like a spoonbill or an Ibis. Great white Egrets are very well established on the Somerset Levels now and I feel sure that it’s only a matter of time before they start to take up more permanent residence with us.

Starlings singly and collectively (c) Tom Nicholson Lailey

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