Water vole’s odd hairdo puzzles experts...
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With the weather taking a turn for the worse birding has become slightly moe difficult as birds take refuge (getting decent pictures has been even tougher!). So as soon as the clouds broke I popped down to the hide where this stunning looking male ruff was waiting to have its picture taken.
This striking individual is a fantastic example of how much wading birds can change their plumage as they enter the breeding season. This amazing species have several colour variations amongst the males and the different colour variants behave differently on their breeding grounds - Individuals with this black variation are typically dominant and territorial at the 'lek'.
Keeping him company were a single redshank and approximately 400 black-tailed godwits. With the water level having again been lowered these godwits like nothing better than probing there long bills into the exposed soft mud whilst making full use of the gangly legs to walk further into the water than other waders.
Other waders seen taking adavantage of the muddy conditions at the hide recently include sanderling (coming into breeding plumage), ringed plover, little ringed plover,snipe and dunlin.
In other news their are a pair of oystercatchers and a pair of avocets whilst a couple of hobby and a young male marsh harrier have been seen hunting over the pools and surrounding areas.
This time of year is very busy as early morning breediig bird surveys begin as early as 7am!
Redshank surveys have started out on the marsh with skylarks, reed bunting, oystercatcher and meadow pipits all recorded displaying over our plots.
A volunteer and I had amazing views of a short eared owl just behind the Decca one morning and it has been seen there a couple of times since so keep an eyes open - great views over these pools can be had from the marsh road so there is no need to go onto the marsh.
Lapwing surveys have also begun with birds on nests recorded in both the Denhall and Decca compound. Sheep will be kept out of the Decca compound now until after the breeding season to prevent damage to the nests. But due to it also being lambing season the Denhall compound will be used for new mothers to bond with their lambs before being turned on to the marsh ‘at large’!
Lapwings are also busy displaying over IMF2 with 12 pairs, and a nest of chicks seen :-) Two pairs are showing interest in the area sown with barley so hopefully this will be a successful crop for breeding birds! However, I am concerned with the lack of rain as IMF2, with its sandy soils, is very dry meaning that the barley is not growing and that the shallow ditches which the lapwing rely on are empty. This dry spring may have a detrimental effect on breeding wetland birds, and of course on our crops!
For those of you with a thirst for gardening, our Thursday volunteer Derek has been very VERY busy sifting through Colin’s old compost bins containing organic waste from the last 20years! It is well aerated, lovely and dry and has been bagged with a recommended donation of £1.50 per bag and remember all proceeds go to a good cause J
600 ewe lambs were turned out and shepherded out to the north of the marsh by Square End where there are some dense areas of couch grass. They will stay out now until shearing time in 6-8 weeks so hopefully they will make their mark and improve the habitat in that time. There are only 30 of the 1000 lambing sheep left to lamb now so things are slowing down.
Easter Sunday saw us collecting litter washed up by the high tides at Parkgate – Colin rewarded our hard work with ice creams. Worth coming to help next year!
Stone is still being shifted with the saying 'many hands make light work' being oh so very true so do give us a ring if you are feeling fit!
My big news is that I have broken my leg so I won't be around for a while. If any of you are heading my way in north Wales I am always pleased to have visitors and hear any gossip in the rest of the world!
Other recent bird news - 2 Marsh Harrier (1 young male) ... 2 spotted redshank (summer plumage) ... 1 little ringed plover ... 1 hobby ... 3 lesser whitethroat ... 2 avocet ... 2 oystercatcher ... 2 Bullfinch (feeding Station) ... 2 Cetti's Warbler (Neston Reed bed) ... Osprey (Point of Ayr) ... And finally we had an unexpected visit from a sacred ibis - beleived by many to be form the feral French population!
See you soon, Rhian