Sightings for week ending 12/03/2017

Its been a busy week down Farlington this week. Lots of Bearded Tits, a Marsh Harrier, Kingfisher, Barn Owl, tons of Curlew, Brent Geese and Shelduck and still a Short Eared Owl or two. There was a leucistic duck by the building Tuesday which I think was a Gadwall, despite being positioned next to a Pintail.

Today was particularly gloomy but there were 500+ Dunlin feeding on the mudflats west of the marsh with a few Black Tailed Godwits and Redshank mixed in. There was also one solitary Avocet roosting on the lake. I haven’t seen any Avocet around for a little while, despite the high numbers earlier in the year.

Spring really descended on Thursday. We were working in tshirts at Swanwick Lakes, basking in the warmth on the edge of the lakes. Whilst we were sat at lunch we had a Brimstone, Peacock, Comma and a Red Admiral pass by! These are the first butterflies that I have seen this year.

I think Saturday will be the better day this weekend and so will be a good opportunity to see the last of the waders and wildfowl. The numbers have certainly dropped significantly in the last couple of weeks and it will be sensible to keep an eye out for the first of the summer migrants. Reports of Wheatears and House/Sand Martins have been arriving across the country for a week or so now!

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Sightings for week ending 29/01/2017

dsc_0509Nearly the end of the month! January has flown by in a flurry of Brent geese and waders! This week has been a good one too. I have spent some time down at Farlington and you may see our hedge laying work down by the building. I’m quite pleased with it, the volunteers have done an excellent job, especially as for many of them it was their first time laying.I also remembered to take my camera out with me for once as did our student from Sparsholt (thanks Gwyneth) hence the overload of images on this post.

The star of the show, in my opinion, this week has been the Marsh Harrrier which has been cruising over the reed bed for a few days now. It is quite obliging and regularly pirouettes mid air whist quartering.  No less impressive have been the Bearded Tits which have been seen a lot up by the building and the feeder, even in the thick fog at the start of the week. I filled the feeder on Thursday so hopefully this may draw them in this weekend.

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Marsh Harrier

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Black Tailed Godwit and Teal – Gwyneth Mitchell

The usual high numbers of Black Tailed Godwits, Redshank, Avocet and Dunlin have been in the lake at high tide and Widgeon, Teal, Pintail and Lapwing have been in good numbers across the site. Three Short Eared Owls are still around, using the Point Field and the Main Marsh.

I am please to say that the Brent Goose numbers have rocketed in the last week and where we were only getting a few hundred, well over a thousand are now using the fields, especially the hay meadow. This is much more in line with what we would expect. I was surveying this morning, looking out to Farlington from Broadmarsh. Hundreds of geese were along the foreshore and between the islands and they steadily moved into the marsh at high tide.

The Robins are, to be completely honest, getting to ridiculous numbers in the bushes at the moment. Whilst cutting scrub on Thursday there must have been 20 over the four patches we were clearing. There were also a few Stonechats coming over to see what we were unearthing. One of our wardens thought that they saw a Black Redstart so worth keeping your eyes peeled, it’s a great little bird.

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Stonechat inspecting our handiwork

Southmoor was also very good today. 40 Red-Breasted Merganser were off the point, mingling with Gadwall and Widgeon. There was also a Greenshank sitting on the end of the stream.

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Greenshank

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Marsh Harrier

The Swanwick feeders have been as busy as usual with Nuthatch, Bullfinches and Marsh Tit.

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A beautiful pair of Bullfinches – Gwyneth Mitchell

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A handsome Marsh Tit – Gwyneth Mitchell

The Unexpected

Arriving at the office at Beechcroft this morning I was greeted by a dramatic sight.

A surprise

A surprise

At sometime overnight, and thankfully after the evening meeting had ended and everyone gone home, the wind had brought down a Scots pine on the edge of the car park. If it had been daytime it would probably have crushed at least six cars and possibly some people too. The tree did not look obviously dangerous, but the broken trunk revealed the rot within, which was especially widespread near the base, which was the root of the problem.

So Rob and I spent a good bit of the morning clearing up, after a quick check to see that there was no fuel leaking. Rob wielded the chainsaw, something he is much better at than me and I lugged the logs out of the way, if I ever went to a gym I would not have needed to this evening!

Rob clearing the fallen tree

Rob clearing the fallen tree

The coming together of tree and car did no good for either, Craig’s car will not go anywhere again without the help of a low loader and the tree is now a large habitat pile.

just the car remains to go

just the car remains to go

So with most plans for the day now in tatters we set about a range of odd jobs, Rob carrying out maintenance on the brush-cutters whilst I sorted out the moth trap, which we found languishing int he shed with a few vital bits missing a couple of weeks ago. Tonight will be the first outing for the trap in a good while, unfortunately I will not be in tomorrow to see the catch. I don’t expect a lot as the night looks like being cool, but there could be things like spring usher and pale-brindled beauty, in any event it will be good to see what we get.

I ended the day at Swanwick, where three pairs of gadwall on the Centre Lake were good to see as was the new lectern, see previous post for details of these.

I am off to Blashford again tomorrow, hopefully to put up an osprey nesting platform, if all goes to plan.

 

Swanwick in the Sunshine

It was a great day to be out and about so I headed out to Swanwick to look at tasks for the coming months. I had been into the office at Beechcroft first thing and when I went out to the car to set of to Swanwick I was greeted by the sight of a very smart male blackbird on the roof on the car parked next to mine.

blackbird

blackbird

This is a male of at least two and probably more years old, the very black plumage and all yellow bill being the signs of this.

When I got to Swanwick the Centre Lake was looking very good int he sunshine, even if it was partly covered in ice. As I started to walk around the shore a kingfisher flashed past and off through the trees.

Centre Lake

Centre Lake

The area just to the north-west of the lake has a large area of cherry laurel bushes, these are producing seedlings that are spreading throughout the wood to the detriment of the native flora and trees. We are very fortunate at Swanwick that we have very good growth of hazel seedlings, something that does not happen at many sites as deer tend to browse off the young plants. We would like to encourage the native hazel, along with all the native wildlife that depends upon it.

small hazel

small hazel

We have started to remove the smaller cherry laurel seedlings, pulling them up by the roots when they are small enough, like this one.

laurel seedling

laurel seedling

The bigger bushes, although many are more like trees, will take rather more than a firm pull, these will need felling and the regrowth from the stumps will need to be dealt with as well. You can see the problem the deep shade causes by the total; lack of any ground flora under the bushes and the fact that even on s bright sunny day I could hardly get enough light to get a picture!

deep shade under large cherry laurels

deep shade under large cherry laurels

I had a good look around the reserve at various jobs that will need doing over the next few months. The cattle have all gone now and they seem to have done a good job in the end, grazing of most of the grass but not poaching the ground too much. Poaching in this case does not indicate culinary activity but the trampling of the ground so that the surface cuts yup and starts to get turned to mud. Before they come back next year we will need to check and repair the fences, not that they are in a bad way but there are always branches falling off the trees here and there and staples get lost from the posts. One of the features of Swanwick are the old hedgelines, in some cases with boundary banks and ditches, these ould have been old boundaries, probably without fences but with hedges layed on the bank tops to keep livestock in. In most cases these have grown out as they have become overtopped by trees, the thorns have dies out or grown very tall. In some places the bank top trees show signs of having been part of  a hedge long ago, one case in point is this field maple near flat meadow.

field maple on old boundary bank

field maple on old boundary bank

The day felt definitely like winter, but there were still various reminders of autumn around the reserve, most fungi have gone now, but I came across a line of quite large ones in East Wood, although I have not yet looked them up to identify them.

fungus

fungus

beside the path by New Hill I also found a very colourful spindle, with a few of the fruit still clinging to the pods .

spindle

spindle

I had not had a really good look around East Wood before and I came across another area of cherry laurels spreading into the wood, so the task goes on growing. I also found a large area of very luxuriant hart’s tongue ferns including this particularly large one.

hart's tongue fern

hart’s tongue fern

During my wanderings I heard and saw the kingfisher on at least two further occasions on both New lake and Ben’s Lake. I also saw 6 gadwall, a cormorant and 2 grey herons. In the woods several redwing and both great spotted and green woodpeckers, at least 2 marsh tit and 2 or more buzzards. I was surprised that I did not see or hear any siskin or redpoll in the alder trees though.

Tomorrow I will be at Farlington, where I understand the Environment Agency will be finishing work on the seawall by the end of the week, so with any luck we will be back to something like “normal” by the weekend.