I did not have time to do yesterday’s news last evening so here it is a day late.
I did not set off around the reserve straight away, but decided to check the sluices along some of the ditches and investigate the water flows. This took me into some areas of the reserve that I very rarely visit and that are beyond those publicly accessible. There is still a lot of water on the fields despite what must have been the driest fortnight for about eleven months. In one of the ditches I came across the first frog spawn I have seen this year, it is very late and this looked recently laid as it showed little sign of development.
From the wet areas I flushed several snipe and from one particular patch 5 jack snipe, I have noticed before that even though snipe may come up from all over a wet field if there are jack snipe present they are very often all in the same small area, I don’t know if this because they have very particular requirements or if they are sociable, when they fly up it is not as a flock but as individuals so this last seems unlikely to me. As I headed back towards the Building I saw a water pipit near the Hayfield gate, a regular area for sightings.
I then headed off the walk around the reserve and as I did I noticed a merlin perched on the ground on the ground in North Marsh, my first of the year, they have been unusually scarce since the New Year. The fields still had good numbers of brent geese, there were at least 2500, although they were every restless and frequently made fast flights around the area when flushed, they were also very vocal, all typical signs that they are readying to leave. I suspect a lot will go in the next few days if the north-east wind eases. From the Point I got good views of two fo the slavonian grebe as they came well up Russell’s Lake and even got a picture of sorts.
In the ditch near the Lake a pair of teal were feeding making for great views of these wonderful little duck.
I had some lunch and was pleased to see the skies brightening so that when I set off for the northern part of the reserve the sun was just starting to appear. I took my macro lens with me and took the opportunity to get a few pictures of some of the smaller things on the reserve, especially the lichens, many of which were looking very good indeed.
The one above was growing on an elm trunk near the underpass. The smaller shrubs along the track had several species on as well, including this one on small twigs of a hawthorn.
Some of the larger willows in the Aerial Field were especially well covered.
There were several similar looking ones in shades of grey and white.
There were also shaggy ones.
The oldest trees in this part of the reserve ar ea couple of oaks, but these do not seem to harbour lichens to the same extent as the willows or ash trees, I believe it is something to do with the pH of their bark.
There were other things to see as well, a couple of buzzards were calling to one another and in the shallow water when I was looking, without success, for more frog spawn I saw a wide range of water plants.
Up in the Old Copse the cuckoo pint leaves are showing well including some of the spotted variant.
Some bracket fungi growing on one of the cut tree stumps also caught my eye.
Despite the sunshine there were very few insects out, I spotted one small true bug and a few flies, as a rule the glossy leaves of ivy are good for basking insects but I could find none.
The only fly that stayed still for me was one that was feeding on the seeping of sap from one of the cut stumps left by the powerline clearance team.
Near the gate into the Aerial Field there were several very large, new molehills, there are lots of molehills about at the moment and they are work recording for the current mammal atlas being organised by the mammal society, for more information visit www.mammal.org.uk.
By the time I returned to the Building the sun was quite warm and I decided to see if the bittern was sunbathing alongside the Stream, It was not so I guess it may well have gone. The reeds were looking fine in the low sunshine and I could hear several bearded tit calling, although I failed to see any.
Reed seeds make up almost the entire diet of bearded tits during the winter and the number that winter at Farlington is testament to the good levels of seed that the reeds have in the reedbed. In fact not all reedbeds are good seed producers, so we are fortunate that ours are.