That’s a wrap

I haven’t posted a recent sightings for a few weeks so apologies for that. A mixture of holiday, illness and a crazy rush before Spring has left little to no office time. But, Spring is in the air! Well kind of. In between storms, howling wind and some very heavy rain we have had some quite pleasant days which make one feel that Spring may be very nearly about to be sprung. Certainly the crocuses and snowdrops have been quite spectacular. Just down the road from our offices the churchyard is a swathe of colour.

dsc_0767

dsc_0770We have been very busy. Bird nesting season officially starts on the 1st of March. At this point we no longer cut scrub, chop down trees or do anything that may disturb our little avian friends from settling down and making more little avian friends. We therefore have to rush to get all the jobs we started finished and all the things that we thought that we had loads of time to do, done.

Our main focus has been to improve conditions for the nesting lapwing at Farlington Marshes nature reserve. We have therefore concentrated on reducing perching points for keen eyed corvids such as crows and magpies which sit atop trees in hedge rows and watch carefully for an unguarded nest or wandering chick.

dsc_0746

We have also removed vegetation along the sea wall next to the hay field. This helps reduce erosion of the wall and opens it out for the benefit of ground nesting birds

dsc_0763

We removed some scrub that was moving steadily out into the marsh. The ground nesting birds such as Lapwing and Skylark don’t like this

dsc_0765

The hedge between the point field and the main marsh. It had become quite a substantial piece of vegetation. We have now trimmed it down to chest height all the way along.

We have reduced the height of the hedges between the point field and the main marsh and the main marsh and the hay field. This opens up sight lines, making it feel less enclosed and takes out the perching points. Hopefully this may squeeze in a few more lapwing territories and it is all about maximizing our space for our target species. My sincerest apologies to all the people on Tuesday wandering around the sea wall as we scared some of the birds away from the Deeps as we had to get in to finish the work that we had done on the hedge.

The last full survey done of breeding lapwing was in 2012 with 17 pairs identified across the site. Prior to this a survey was done in 2006 with 33 pairs. The aim this year is to do another full census. Hopefully the numbers will have remained stable since 2012.

On another note and excitingly, I found a water vole latrine in the deeps and a feeding station in the reed bed. I hope to do a more extensive survey in May, (the peak time for voles) but it looks hopeful that there may be a population hanging on in there. How they have survived I have no idea as the site must be completely isolated from any other water vole colony. It’s good to have some firm evidence that they are around.

 

 

Advertisements

Notes of April

Where does the time go? Three weeks have past and I haven’t found the time to put finger to key on these pages. Its been a busy time out on the reserves and to be honest the only interesting things I have seen have been while doing other things. These past three weeks have mostly been spent at Farlington, stuck firmly in fencing mode. But after another full on day with the Farlington Volunteers today, Im glad to say we have managed to get the whole place stockproof once again.

New fenceline in the aerial field

New fenceline in the aerial field

April is a fantastic month with lots of spring species either migrating back, popping up out of the ground or hatching. In between busying ourselves I did manage to note a few of these so I shall give a brief overview of April’s highlights;

For a week or so around the 5th a Juv Little gull frequented the south marsh, around the deeps and the willow pool.

Juv. Little gull - Deeps (5th April)

Juv. Little gull – Deeps (5th April)

Juv. Little gull - Deeps (5th April)

Juv. Little gull – Deeps (5th April)

Sandwich tern made a welcome return to the harbour also around the 5th with Common tern and Little tern arriving a week or so later.

Sandwich Tern

Sandwich Tern

Two Whimbrel were sighted off the point on the 5th as well as a male Wheatear on South marsh. A single Avocet on the 14th was unexpected as well as two adult Spoonbill. A Greenshank was noted on the lake and I even had a treat of seeing a Weasel!!- a first for me on the reserve.

Wheatear

Wheatear

Further into the month, on the 21st I saw my first Redstart of the year – a female on the fence lines at Southmoor. This area is a hotspot for passerines and I also noted Blackcap (male and female), Whitethroat, with Willow warbler and Chiffchaff in song.

As we approach the end of the month good numbers of swallows are now on the marsh, and can be seen collecting mud from the wet areas of north marsh, next to the track. Lapwing are now busy sitting on eggs with sightings of three chicks already! Another wheatear was noted today as well as a Lesser whitethroat in song right next to the hut.

A Beardy Good Day

Well its been yet another busy weekend. Yesterday the Trust had a presence at the well attended Hampshire Ornithological Society’s Open Day. Not only was it a great chance to engage with like minded people but they also put on a good selection of talks – a busy but most enjoyable and educational day.

Today started bright and early as we were taking advantage of a good weather window to do some bird ringing in the reedbed at Farlington. Arriving just before sunrise, we got up several nets in the redbed in front of the hut. We didn’t have to wait long before the first birds came in; A pair of stunning Bearded tit, then a few more. By the end of the session we had caught and ringed 13 Beardies along with a male Reed bunting, a Meadow Pipit, a Blue tit and perhaps most surprising of all a Willow warbler. This was an obvious new arrival to the country with a thick matt of pollen above its upper mandible. This will have come from feeding from pollen rich flowers found on the continent. A top bird and the first for the year on the Marsh.

Male Bearded tit

Male Bearded tit

Look at that moustache !

Look at that moustache !

Comparative close up on the female

Comparative close up on the female

Meadow pipit

Meadow pipit

Willow warbler

Willow warbler

Pollen soaked Warbler 'nose'

Pollen soaked Warbler

Another male Beardie

Another male Beardie

The first’s didn’t stop there during the ringing session I saw my first Wheatear of the year out on the marsh (although they have been spotted on the reserve for over a week now.) We also a saw female/immature Marsh harrier, 3 Sand martins and a Short-eared owl, which was over in the hayfield.

We rounded up the session by mid morning but it was too nice to head home so I stuck around and went for a walk around the reserve to see what other migrants had touched down that morning. First interesting observation was the Brent goose splinter group were still present on the main marsh, but there were only 63 of them today. Then we found two groups of Wheatear when looking out onto the marsh from the blockhouse. There were two lots of 3 containing equal numbers of males and females, and then we later saw another female at the back of the reedbed, totalling 7! Moments later we got a glimpse of a Swallow dashing northwards.

Chiffchaff singing in the bushes

Chiffchaff singing in the bushes

Three Chiffchaff were noted; at the point, in the bushes and behind the building. When getting back to the hut in time for a late lunch there was a familiar sound in the distant; a singing Sedge warbler. Unfortunately it didn’t show itself  but with such a distinctive call i guess it didn’t need to.

It was a distant bird so you might need to turn your volume up to hear it….

Katie’s Legacy

In between doing this and that today I managed to squeeze in a quick visit to Farlington. From my first steps onto the sea wall it was clear I had somewhat overlooked the effect of the weekend storms on the reserve (probably as I was looking for dangerous trees and the like) but there was clear signs we had a serious overtopping event during ‘Storm Katie’. There is seaweed all over the place, flattened grass where water had clearly flowed and lots of moved gravel that was once on top of the seawall, now unfortunately off the wall and in places in the ditch. Luckily it doesn’t look like there is too much serious damage – just three boats we have now ‘acquired’ around the sea wall.

Washed up boat (Part 1)

Washed up boat (Part 1)

Washed up boats (part 2)

Washed up boats (part 2)

I think that the sea had overtopped in most places around the marsh, even around the eastern side – which is quite something! All water bodies on the marsh are looking incredibly full (most likely with sea water) and there is even a clear strand line on South Marsh, showing how high the water must have got.

Strand line on main marsh & Sea weed on the fence lines

Strand line on main marsh & Sea weed on the fence lines

I feel I must make an edit to my last post and retract my statement that all the Brent geese have left. On the Deeps there were 86 still feeding up but they were very flighty so I guess its only a matter of time till they join their buddies and leave for Northern climes too. Other sightings of note were a Female/Juv type Marsh harrier hunting the reedbed and the scrape, three Harbour seals hauled out on the low tide mud, 9 Mediterranean gulls  on the Stream and I heard two Chiffchaff (one around the Point and the other around the Bushes).

Marsh harrier

Marsh harrier

Med Gull in flight

Med Gull in flight

Two Med gulls amongst Blackheads and a herring gull.

Two Med gulls amongst Blackheads and a herring gull.

As far as Im aware, from the people I spoke to, there were no sightings of any migrant action today – Alas my first Wheatear sighting had to wait for another day….

Migration in Action

After having a week on leave the last couple of days have been busy filled up mostly on my part with driving around the county picking bits of kit up or getting materials for some summer jobs. The Farlington volunteers and Emma, however, were busy starting on the fencing in the Hayfield yesterday. They made a cracking start getting most of the posts in place and even started on getting the wire up. While they were busy digging holes I popped over the other side of the A27 to check if Storm Katie had left her mark. Luckily we had got away with just minor damage with one or two trees down internally. Along the way I heard three Chiffchaff spread out along the length of the railway boundary.

The sound is litterally the soundtrack of spring so I had to take a short video of it as it sung above me.

Today was similar to yesterday, as I spent the morning driving around dropping off bits of kit and delivering a load of fence posts in to Farlington. In the half an hour or so I spent on site (going no further than the main track by the hut) I saw some clear signs that spring is getting going and migration is in action. First to grab my attention was a male Reed bunting in song and then a pair of Bearded tit flittering around. After unloading the trailer and driving back past the hut three hirundines caught my eye. Three Sand martin, quickly shot past. Up the stream and over the hut disappearing out of site as soon as they had appeared. 5 minutes later a Swallow followed suit. Both my first of the year. Other visitors have reported seeing Wheatear but I have yet to find time to see any myself. Similar to the hirundines, these first few Wheatears are not hanging around for too long on the reserve, getting well on their way on their migration.

A pair of Beardies.

A pair of Beardies.

Sand martin

Sand martin

A rather silhouetted Swallow. My very first this year.

A rather silhouetted Swallow. My very first this year.

Although I didn’t have time for a proper look it seems like the Brent geese have now left the harbour. Reports tell me they made a break for it early last week. Other bird reports from around the reserve are Merlin on the 27th, 3 Wheatear yesterday and Short-eared owl also on the 27th.

Lunchtime Chiff & Other Niceties (Thursday Notes)

Yesterday the Beechcroft team joined us down at Farlington and we managed to finish off the fencing near the cycletrack entrance. It took us the best part of a morning to make it look proper smart so we rewarded ourselves with a sunny lunch-break sitting outside the reserve hut with the March solar rays beating down. It was really rather pleasant and to make it even better a Chiffchaff came and joined us, bellowing out its song from a Hawthorn behind the hut. It wasn’t bothered by us at all and we managed to get great views of it.

Chiffchaff

Chiffchaff

With sandwiches consumed and a good amount of sunshine absorbed, we spent the afternoon going around the reserve ticking off a selection of odd jobs. After we had finished up and packed the tools away I stayed on and went for a walk around the seawall talking with visitors and seeing if we had any new feathered arrivals on the reserve.

I was hopeful for a Wheatear, Sandwich tern or a Sandpiper but alas my luck wasn’t in. There were plenty of other niceties though. A lone Bearded tit (what looked most probably like a female) skimmed along the reedbed pinging as it went. The usual fine selection of waterfowl (Shoveler, Shelduck, Wigeon, Teal and Pintail) were still on the deeps area. Although it certainly looked like there were now fewer Wigeon on the reserve. The Brent were still present all over the reserve but in distinct tight groups, no doubt waiting for the ‘leader’ to say “right lets go!”. Lapwing are now throwing themselves around the skies busy setting up territories and showing off.

Distant Lapwing

Distant Lapwing

Looking out from the point a Seal was hauled out on the mudflats to the South. Unfortunately the Short-eared owl (last seen on the 13th) did not make an appearance in its usual area of the point field, so I carried on walking making sure I paid special attention to the Willow Pool, keeping an eye out for Wheatears. Try as I might I couldn’t make any tufts of grass on top of anthills into Wheatears so I continued on around the seawall. On the Lake was a Greenshank and a Spotted redshank with a selection of Black-tailed godwits (in the begins of their summer plumage). Also to the right in the reed stubble area were 7 Snipe. 

Black-tailed godwit showing off its part summer plumage

Black-tailed godwit showing off its part summer plumage

Greenshank & Redshank on the lake

Greenshank & Spotted redshank on the lake (blurry digiscope)

Spotted Redshank

Spotted Redshank – Caught a slightly better image with my camera after it moved onto the stream.

Before returning to where I had begun a single Avocet was busy feeding on the stream as the gulls began to come into roost.

Spring Cometh

Well looks like spring could well be on the way; Wheatears are fastly being reported up and down the country and I even heard my first ‘proper’ Chiffchaff (I’d like to think it is one that hasn’t over wintered) down at Farlington today! The Brent are also looking like they have very itchy feet too and if I was a betting man I would put money on them leaving next week, once this wind changes direction back to a south westerly, aiding their journey northwards.

Elsewhere down on Farlington the volunteers and I started on our long list of fencing jobs by doing battle with the fence line near the hut, which needed reinstating. They did a cracking job – so good in fact I’d be pleased if a contractor had produced such a straight, taut piece of fencing. We still have a bit to finish off but you get the idea from the photo below.

Fine bit of fencing. Still to be completed....

Fine bit of fencing. Still to be completed….

Unfortunately being so close to the busy A27 left little scope for seeing or hearing much nature but while sitting eating lunch we did see a small colourful butterfly. I didn’t get a good look at it but I think it was either a Small tortoiseshell or a Comma. Later in the afternoon, however, while grabbing some more fenceposts I did get a good look at a Peacock butterfly basking on the warm woodwork.

After we had packed up all the tools and the volunteers had left, I drove up the main track to turn the truck around. In the fields behind the building were a dozen Curlew feeding and a pair of Reed buntings in the adjacent reed bed. The showy male hung around for a while and I even managed to get some photos.

KO3A8412

Male Reed bunting

Curlew

Curlew

The Brent are looking very flighty now and all took off numerous times in very large flocks – tell tale signs that they soon will be returning to their summer stomping grounds. Before they all took off I managed to see two adult birds with colour rings. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to read the rings in the long grass though but it was nice to see that there are still some (old) birds hanging around in the flocks.

Colour ringed Brent goose

Colour ringed Brent goose

Big group of Brent over the main marsh

Big group of Brent over the main marsh