Friday, 12 April 2013

Weaseling out winter

Weasels seem to be order of the day around the car park at the moment - thanks to Darren Smith for these shots:
Followed by John Coish who captured this grisly scene:
Otherwise an excellent reprise to winter in the form of perhaps the last 3 whooper swans leaving Hempholme Meadow last night.  Red necked grebe is still showing as well as ever on O reservoir from the viewing screen - an array of fine pictures here - firstly Dave Ware:
John Pickering:
And Nigel Genn:
Who also got this fine pheasant:
The black-necked grebe was last sighted on Saturday.  Will the red-neck grebe still be here on Sunday? We may well see it disappear with the arriving summer birds.  The first swallow, house martins and second wave (three weeks later) all arrived yesterday with more birds again present today.  We've had a big influx of small migrants with many pipits - 6+ on Hempholme yesterday along with one distinctly different bird which could well have been a Scandinavian race rock pipit - but unfortunately a binos only view.  Wheatear was present on the access road on the 5th. The odd pink footed goose and marsh harrier has been about, and a jack snipe was on South Marsh East on Saturday the 6th. Willow tits around the woods - thanks to Darren again for this shot from the feeders:
Lots of blackcaps and chiffchaffs in the woods now.  Ring necked duck made a return visit to D reservoir yesterday - thanks to Roy for this one:
Erich also spotted a party of 7 crossbills in the car park conifers last night (Roy):
And also the mediterranean gull pictured, along with a little gull (Roy):
A female merlin was on the approach road today also. Lesser redpolls by the lagoons. Two little egrets on Hempholme, and thanks to Michael Flowers for this of the two woodcock earlier in the week at the wildlife centre:
I think that brings us up to speed sightings wise! However all change Sunday - a southerly wind will bring a glut of migrants - all the hirundines on mass, wagtails, terns, willow warblers, ospreys and more are all on the cards - keep an eye out for passage rarities like ring ouzel, stonechat and wheatears.

All change too on the Southern Marshes;  We covered this in the open meeting last week - so for those not there:

Some of you may have noticed the lack of water in breeding season this year on South Marsh East.  The landscaping on the marshes has gradually being eroding over the last few years, the peat islands are now all but gone leaving little breeding or passage wader feeding habitat.  We've also problems with siltation and some of you may remember last years massacre (see here) by the local fox which found its way across the silted up trench to kill over 30 pairs of black headed gulls and terns.

You may also have noticed the large pile of gravel and clay deposited from the tunnelling work earlier in the year.  As avocets have not returned and before the terns do arrive and breeding starts we've decided to bite the bullet and 'rest' the marshes this summer and take the opportunity to improve them.  The terns will be able to breed on the Watton NR rafts this season, and the ducks on neighbouring marshes and ponds.  We are also not unduly concerned about a reduction in breeding duck activity here either.  Whilst pochard and shoveler are to be celebrated breeding, success has been negligible in recent years and shelduck have failed completely.  We keep tabs on mink and therefore these cannot be blamed. Otter was a candidate - but why did it not take eggs and birds from islands?  Our fears were finally confirmed with observations of a large pike that ate 3 tufted ducklings in a matter of seconds last summer.  Frankly ducks attempting to breed here are all going to be eaten.  Therefore we will be attempting to target dangerously large pike from the remaining deep pools this summer and improve success rates for 2014.  In 2000 we had 3% of the UK breeding pochard population and they still breed every year - but nothing survives to fledge.  So whilst we try and avoid interfering with nature - we feel we need to do something to conserve threatened species.

Contractors Morrisons will be taking the inert gravel and clay into the marsh from next week to create an array of new breeding and wader habitat whilst the conditions are drier than we've had chance since last September.  The infertile material will not readily grow vegetation to the liking of breeding birds - so a bit of a change for this year. On completion the fox trench will be cleared and made 'proof' again.  On the plus side we can also hope for breeding lapwing on the marshes this year.

Finally - poo.

Still places available for Sundays event - details on the events page above.  A great opportunity for enthusiasts of all levels no matter how low to look at the range of field signs we have, and delve into a few owl pellets too.  Book on 01377 270690.