Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Deserted island

The word on everyone's lips for the last couple of weeks is 'what's happening with the marsh harriers?'  We can reveal that they are nesting on the reserve this year - but unfortunately not in last years location on South Marsh West. 

We have last years pair on North Marsh back again (which were kept low profile as the back up plan).  We're ok with publicising them as they are very well tucked away - the best description is featured at the end of this blog entry from a couple of years ago.

So why haven't the South Marsh ones come back? They've been seen in the area and even at the nest site but haven't settled.  Three reasons we reckon why not;
1 - The oil seed rape crop this year has grown - a freezing spring following winter floods last year stilted growth and removed this now favoured breeding habitat.  This year it was in full flower in March.
2 - The neighbours - last year we drained South Marsh East for management and the main residents all summer were a peace loving and tasty family of little ringed plovers.  Contrast to this year and the black headed gull colony is back with a vengeance - along with some menacing relatives.  Regular Darren reported a harrier attempting to land at the nest last week was mobbed so heavily it couldn't put down - or even sit in the tree behind
3 - And finally the law of sod - we installed a camera a few months back overlooking last years nest site in the hope we'd get some great views!  Bit like taking a camera on a fishing trip...
So that disappointment aside there is still plenty else to relish.  Cetti's warblers are again on site and indeed the same female was ringed last week by the group - complete with brood patch confirming evidence of breeding - details here.

Barn owls are currently feeding 3 chicks and the tawny owls have already entertained many in the car park some great shots here from Darren Smith:
And Bruce Pillinger:
with mum looking on:
Plenty of wood pigeon squabs about this weekend:
Unfortunately another one was picked off by the sparrowhawk within 30mins:
These Egyptian geese rolled in recently and have been a regular addition around the bottom of site - pics by Eddie Laker:
A few tail end waders have passed through in the last couple of weeks:
dunlin at Watton on the 8th, 10th, 12th,
wood sandpiper on SMW on the 14th - pic by Karen Williams
Common sandpiper on Sunday:
with the odd greenshank and whimbrel to boot and a few redshank like this one by Mal Jones:
A passing turtle dove on the 9th might be a lucky record for 2014 - and chances of spotted flycatcher anyone?  Some new arrivals though were a pair of little gulls that hung about on the Marsh - pic by Roy Lyon:
And a med gull by Roy too that hung around for a while (A good write up on Erich's page)- Roy:
However the heavily fortified tern island on South Marsh East had been vacated by all gulls last week.  The island next door is still fine with the first black headed gull chicks last Friday:
The terns peaked at 7 before settling down with 2 pairs now on nests:
Great result for a lot of work put in last summer by the volunteers:
So what went wrong on the main island - had the fox got out again? the belt off the electric fence would suggest not and nor did any prints.  We suspect it may be due to these shady characters:
This pair of lesser black backed gulls have been hanging around all season taking opportunities as they arrive.  In one case a cuckoo was reported flying over stimulating mobbing in the black-heads - which was the perfect opportunity for the LBBG's to gorge themselves.  It would appear no one is welcome - not even a pair of terns:
That said no nest as yet - so are they just going to hang about?  perhaps a good reason for the harriers to go elsewhere.  That said 4 pairs of little grebes suggest a lack of pike so a good result on the draining - Roy Lyon:
Linnets showy nearby - Darren Smith:
Sedge warbler by Brian Colley:
And a cracking shot of bullfinches by Andy Marshall - no digital trickery either!
Orchids by Brian:
And honeysuckle also by Brian:
Nice meal for any cuckoo - drinker caterpillar:
For the next stage have a look at Martin's blog for all the moth news.

There have been a few otter sighting of late - there are a few last minute places left on Friday night's event - £5 per person - ring 01377 270690 to book before hand.  Tony McLean snapped this one at the back of Watton NR last week:
Thanks again to the volunteer team L shaped hide is again open.  Like any DIY job it turned out bigger than envisaged! Rob puts the finishing touches on: