Thursday, 2 June 2016

The ring of spring

The last few weeks have seen the spring wader passage through the reserve.  Likely the highlight were a succession of ringed plovers that started with three on the 8th and hit eight on the 10th, with three remaining to the 15th. 
Possibly coming back early was one on the 29th. 

Five dunlin also dropped by on the 2nd of May.  Its difficult to say whether it was these or a succession that lingered on the Southern Marshes:
A nice ruff arrived on the 8th in near summer plumage. 
The first common sand went through on the 9th, with 3 on the 11th,
A greenshank dropped by on the 8th, with the rarest birds a little stint on the 9th and turnstone on the 10th, and two bar-tailed godwit on the 17th a good bird for inland Tophill.  Redshank also about:
Lapwing by Roy Vincent:

With wader season done we were into the breeding season on the marshes.  Its been a mixed bag this year with winners and losers.  We'll start with the bad first...

Thirteen common tern were present on the 8th, with six sedentary.  It would seem a quieter year for these birds so far when last year we had fourteen nests.  It simply seems its just a poor year for them returning - it'll be interesting to see other sites experiences this year:
They are however using the Watton NR tern rafts which is great news given the number of volunteers sacrificed in the mud whilst repairing and transporting them.
Lesser black backed gulls continued to linger but the bad weather at the beginning of the month seemed to mess up their first nesting attempt, and a second time they also seemed to have abandoned for reasons unknown.  Perhaps much to the relief of the other occupants:
This was mirrored by the little ringed plovers which tried to nest but the snow at the end of April did for their first attempt.  It was not a problem as it was early so attempt number two we hoped would fare better in spite of being size challenged:
Unfortunately they failed after a week.  There were a few reasons in the frame; reports of a stoat cavorting in the area caused alarm, but an inspection revealed an intact nest ruling out egg thieves or predation.  Another possibility was a very heavy thunderstorm that may have flooded the nest.  But the most likely it would seem is some kind of dispute - a volunteer reported a major scrap and fight at the nest site shorty before desertion.  So it would seem the problem is internal.  And these characters - the marsh harrier - never got a look in (Brian Colley):
The same can be said of oystercatchers too.  And this put out looking Egyptian goose was the gooseberry left over from a breeding scrap - the happy pair have moved off somewhere else - Will Scott:
A similar failure to launch has been the grey herons.  Seemingly interested in D woods they showed great promise earlier in the season but the fuss appears to have come to nothing (Stuart Allen):
Tony Simpson
Roy Vincent:
Josh Harrison
A latter blow has been with the black headed gull colony.  Often chastised for being too 'noisy' they are perhaps a victim of their own success and this hasn't gone unnoticed by the wildlife too.  We know foxes are active around the reserve, and we also know that they don't read the books when it comes to swimming.  We first saw this in Jeff Baker's picture from 2013:
And it seems this has not been forgotten.  You may have seen on Tony McLean's flickr stream recently that he has recently captured this image of a fox raiding a goose nest - cleanly swimming over the 'fox trench' to keep them off:
Unfortunately it would seem they have also managed to learn how to clear our electric fences including those stood in water.  We know otters will take birds - we have the trail camera footage of them taking herring gulls off the water; But it seems they have a clear code of conduct - if it swims its fair game - if it doesn't they're not interested.  And again it seems true with no predation of the 140 black headed gull nests attributable to otter.  However the fox has predated around half of these we reckon in recent weeks - a trip onto the marsh revealed a perpetrator print beyond the electric fence:
So its back to the drawing board for an even more intricate fence system next year.  We're reticent to use lethal force as foxes are native and would quickly be replaced so its a deterrent for us.  We've enough on controlling north American mink with another removed a couple of weeks ago.  And we're sure there'll still be plenty of black-headed's that'll survive this year at any rate. 

So with the negatives out the way we shall look at the positives:

Tawny owl have fared well with four nests across the northern reserve.  The adults have been keeping an ever watchful eye from the tree tops - also giving some great photo ops - Alan Walkington:
Brian Colley:
Roy Vincent:
And just in the last few days Brian captured this first image of a chick - so lots of good views yet to come:
Great to have grasshopper warbler back on the reserve again in early summer.  A second bird was reeling at the southern site at the beginning of the month.  We can expect more in mid June for brood two.  Loads of warblers about generally - reed warbler Will Scott:
Brian Colley:
 Roy Vincent:
Blackcap Paul Lyons
Sedge Warbler - Roy Vincent:
And needless to say cetti's everywhere, and the odd garden warbler too.  Cuckoo will be gearing up for round two in coming days also.  Wagtails have been quite enjoyable this season - the typical pied's present - Will Scott:
Grey wagtails have been a great success - the first birds to have bred on the reserve for a few years.  Brian Colley:
And yellow wagtail too - likely two pairs on the approach road:
There are few good birds on the road in at the moment - skylark on the muck heap is a regular:
But also further up towards Watton opposite the free range chicken farm is a field sprayed off for black grass; And this has been covered with breeding lapwing with seemingly some good sized broods coming off.  Also corn bunting and yellow hammer around on the road too.  Lots hirundines about too - Will Scott:
Leading to their shadow the hobby - Will Scott:
An encouraging sign that they are in the area.  Likewise one of the best birds of the season.  We've had a pair of drake garganey on the marshes for some time - suggesting a female/s tucked away safely:

Perhaps of lesser provenance but a rare breeder for round here have been red crested pochard - the first time ever documented on the reserve:
And likewise shelduck doing well - a brood of seven present for some days.  So foxes aside those able to swim are successful.  Hopefully plenty more waiting in the wings of shoveler, shelduck, pochard etc.  And of course the commoner species in spite of the fights - Greylags - Paul Lyons:
And Coots:
Brian Colley:
And perhaps these will come up with the goods - Great crested grebes - Brian Colley:

Meanwhile these characters doing well - Marsh Frog - Vaughan Grantham:
And these to keep them in check - Roy Vincent:
Bit more scrapping too from the roe deer - height of the rut for them - Paul Lyons:
 In the woodlands great spotted woodpecker on the feeders - Paul Lyons:
So in summary - 2016 has been a mixed up spring; But the winners would seem to be wildfowl this year.  Make the most of the summer season as we've already had the first green sandpiper through of the autumn passage!. 
To do this why not pop along to one of our events in the next couple of weeks;
This Saturday the 4th we have the reserve walk at 10am to take in the best of the seasonal wildlife.  Free drop in guided walk with standard admission. 
On the 11th we still have a few places left on our otter walk - strictly book in advance all details are above on the events page
And on the 12th at 10am as a follow up to National Moth night Martin will be holding a short tour through the moth trap - explaining what's on the wing at the moment (subject to some warmer weather making a good catch!).  Again free with standard admission.