Not anything to do with birds in this instance. I'm referring to the fact that the hazel catkins are out around Kingshill Farm and the first great crested newts are starting to emerge from hibernation. The catkins are obvious enough, but the newts are generally far more secretive. The reason that I know that they're becoming active again (presumably due to the continuing mild weather) was because one of the teenage girls who were visiting Elmley today to do some work experience with Sheppey Youth Action announced that she had "Euuurggh! Found a squashed lizard!" On closer inspection, the unfortunate herptile was in fact a newt and it had been squished in the carpark. A bit harsh really, surviving the coldest winter for decades & then getting flattened en route to the nearest pond. What were the chances? On a more serious note, great crested newts are afforded the highest protection under European law, and while there's nothing that can be done about unfortunate accidents like this, I would urge visitors to Elmley to exercise a bit of caution at the moment. The newts are largely nocturnal in their movements, so it's only really peple who are staying late to look for owls etc that might encounter one, but it always pays to take care. The photo below is of a female that turned up in the house last autumn - you can just about make out the vivid orange underside that separates this species from the other native newts
And the newts weren't the only BAP (Bio-diversity Action Plan) species having a bad day today. While out moving the sheep, something scuttled off under a gate that I was just about to open - a stoat. And it was carrying something. Through binoculars, the unfortunate victim looked suspiciously like an immature water vole.. Ho hum. I suppose it's some indication that both species are doing well on the reserve, but I'd rather this was confirmed in other ways. At least all the brown hares that I saw today were healthy.
Nothing very spring-like about the bird highlights today. 10 Bewick's swans were on the Flood this morning, but had moved off by early pm, with possibly 8 of them relocating further west. The mixed goose flock at Wellmarsh today included 43 white-fronts, + the same 5 pink-feet & single barnacle & brent. Raptors included a male & female peregrine & a merlin.