Monday, 9 April 2018

Saturday and Sunday 7th and 8th April

Kingfisher (c) Bark

At least the weather has finally become a little more spring-like, on Saturday it brightened up eventually with some watery sunshine, but Sunday reverted to the damp showery conditions that have characterised the first week of April. There was a marked difference in the air however, it was softer, warmer and smelt of growing. The Blackthorn is beginning to flower in earnest and it will not be long before the bushes are dressed in a fresh white froth.
Blackthorn (c) Bark

There are now Willow Warblers singing to accompany the monotonous chanting of Chiffchaffs. By Sunday morning there were at least four singing along the bridleway and others in the carpark field. The first Blackcaps of the year were heard on Saturday morning singing in the lane just outside the carpark.
Chiffchaff (c) JR

The first Swallows were seen over Greenaways and we noticed odd ones and twos feeding low over the water at the lagoons and the first Sedge Warbler was reported on Friday morning and another was heard singing up at the Noke end on Saturday.
Barn Owls were seen both at Morleys and out at the second screen on both mornings. They have become a regular feature of early morning visits and I understand that they are being seen just as frequently in the late afternoon and early evening.
Barn Owl (c) Tom N-L

A Sparrowhawk has been making frequent forays along the path by the hide, where the winter-feeding programme is still going on, scattering the finch flock, which seems to contain more Linnets currently than at any earlier time in the winter. The Linnets retreat to the tops of the bridleway oaks from where they keep up an incessant chatter. The Marsh Harriers are almost always to be seen either patrolling overhead or perched on low bushes and sapling willows in the reedbed. On Saturday one of them was performing a sky-dancing display, starting high it spun, spiralled and stalled in a series of tight turns behaving and looking like a kite in a strong wind when one of the kite-strings has snapped. A female Merlin was seen again over the MOD land. Our long staying male Hen Harrier is still putting in occasional appearances and has still to make the perilous trip north.
Female Pochard (c) JR

As we walked along the bridle way on Saturday morning we heard the Bittern booming from the reedbed on Ashgrave, although when we made it along to Noke this weekend we couldn’t find any Wheatears in the sheep fields or on the fences by the farm. The pastures nearest to the bridleway are still flooded, which must be creating headaches for the sheep farmers at Noke especially as their ewes have just started lambing.
Oystercatchers at Noke (c) Bark
There were three Oystercatchers and several Redshanks stalking through the floods feeding. On the MOD land to the east of the reserve many of the fields are still flooded and amongst the large numbers of Black-headed Gulls feeding there were eight Common Gulls.

fox through the flood (c) Bark
It was a good weekend to catch up with some of our cold-blooded residents. The watery sun had encouraged twenty-six Grass Snakes out onto the dead reeds along the ditch beside the bridleway to sunbathe and warm up.

Grassnakes Above (c) JR below...Medusa's Head (c) Tom N-L
There are both Common Toads and Frogs spawning in the ditches and occasionally giving each other lifts to other parts of the reserve!

Toads porn, Frog and exhausted photographer (c) Bark......  Frogspawn (c) Stoneshank
While trying to photograph a frog a Kingfisher landed nearby in the reeds, slightly unusual as Kingfishers do not breed on the reserve due to an absence of the right sort of river bank, but it did offer super views.
Kingfisher (c) Bark
The year list now stands at one hundred and fourteen species and as yet lacks any stand out exciting or unusual sightings. During the next few weeks anything could turn up.

Dunnock and Chiffy (c) Bark...........Reed Bunting (c) JR

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