A few warm days have encouraged more people to get out and about, and they've been seeing birds on the move, both long-distance migrants and local residents moving to breeding territories.
Six goosanders were on Drayton Lagoon on Thursday; two green sandpipers and a shelduck flew over this morning. The first oystercatchers and ringed plovers have returned to the spots where breeding was recorded here last year. Yellowhammers are singing from bushes on our boundaries with farmland, and reed buntings are singing around all the reedbed areas. Several spots now host singing Cetti's warblers. A bittern has been "tuning up" in recent days - not quite a full boom yet, but the voice is getting stronger by the day.
A drake and two red-headed smews were again in the south-western corner of Elney Lake on Friday morning.
Our guided walk on 6 March will focus on watching goldeneyes courting, and the birds are busy already. They can be seen on most of our lakes, and in good numbers too. We did our monthly Wetland Bird Survey last Sunday, when 105 goldeneyes were counted. There were 488 tufted ducks, our other common black-and-white diving duck (or should I say drake, as the females of both species are shades of brown), so there are lots of opportunities to practise identification skills, if you wish.
There were indications of spring last Sunday, with the appearance of an oystercatcher and two ringed plovers. All three birds were in potential breeding habitat, having been absent over the winter. Grey herons were seen in courtship flights, and a great grested grebe was giving a bugling call, sounding rather like a common crane. Cetti's warblers were singing in several places.
Despite the weather today feeling more wintry (cold wind, icy rain), the goldeneyes are continuing their vigorous courtship.
One of our volunteers has seen two red-headed smews on the Trout Pond again today, and a stonechat that was perching on top of ditch vegetation by the entrance road, just east of the bailey bridge. A regular visitors found an adult Mediterranean gull on Drayton Lagoon later in the afternoon.
The wind is whipping up white horses on our lakes and waves are crashing onto the shores - not ideal for spotting waterbirds. In fact, it was so rough that many birds had got out of the water and were sitting on the grassy banks on the sheltered sides this morning.
My eye was caught by tree colours today, highlighted by the bright blue sky behind them. The most colourful were some of the tallest old willows – last year’s twiggy growth is now orange. Glowing in the sun, the twigs are quite stunning against sky blue.
The other trees to catch my attention were the silver birches at the busway end of Swavesey Lake, their smooth white bark shining in the sun. Their twigs are maroon in colour, and seem to form a halo around the white trunk and branches.
At lower levels, the hazel catkins are standing out against bare trunks and branches, while a closer look at alder trees will reveal their purple catkins are forming too. Leaf buds are forming on many trees, confirmation that the days are getting longer and warmer, and spring is creeping closer.