It’s been blowing a gale here today at Langford and combined with some heavy showers this afternoon, it’s been a rather dreary day. However, the miserable weather most definitely doesn’t deter the wildlife!
This morning I was treated to a brilliant view of 3 whooper swans on silt lagoon 4, looking stunning with their bright white plumage and striking yellow and black bills. I had first picked them up yesterday morning after they swam across silt lagoon 6, being hotly pursued by a pair of very aggressive looking mute swans!
Also this morning I managed to pick up not 1, but 2 kingfishers heading towards Phase 2 from the silt lagoons and a green sandpiper calling overhead as it flew towards Phase 3.
2 kestrels battled the howling wind this afternoon hunting on Phase 2, still managing to keep their heads totally still as they hovered over the rough grass and the regular roosting starlings started to gather around 15.30, with swirling flocks dropping into the reeds and willows around silt lagoons 2,3 and 4. The maximum number seen so far this year roosting on site seems to be in the region of 3000-4000, not as many as last winter, but still a magnificent sight!
Also on site this week, volunteers John and Graham recorded jack snipe on Phase 3, 14 house sparrows around the public footpath (a most unusual sight at Langford!) and up to 7 tree sparrows feeding on the bird feeders viewable from the screen on the public footpath looking over Phase 1. A mixed finch/bunting/sparrow flock kept me entertained yesterday afternoon along the public footpath, with around 100 birds of a good selection of species including yellowhammer, reed bunting, tree sparrow, greenfinch, chaffinch, goldfinch and linnet.
The monthly WeBS (Wetland Bird Survey) was completed on site yesterday by myself and Warden Paul Bennett. This involves counting all waterbirds on site and submitting the data to the British Trust for Ornithology and is part of a national network of sites contributing data to this important monitoring scheme. Our results from yesterday are as follows –
2 little grebe
2 great crested grebe
79 tufted duck
6 mute swan
1 greylag goose
1 green sandpiper
3 grey heron
40 black headed gull
1 water rail
Also on site yesterday were a short eared owl and a merlin seen by Site Manager Michael Copleston, 2 sparrowhawks seen by Paul and a Cetti’s warbler singing from the Phase 1 reedbed. Today we have been treated to some more sightings of tree sparrows from the Phase 1 viewing screen, have counted around 100 fieldfare at the southern end of the site, watched a corvid mobbing a short eared owl over the silt lagoons and spotted 24 golden plover and 150 pink footed geese overflying the reserve. Not bad!
I'm sure that most of you will be aware of the fact that during the winter, starlings often gather in huge, swirling flocks, prior to going to roost and will often use reedbeds to roost in. You may also remember that last winter at Langford, we had approximately 15,000 starlings using our Phase 1 reedbed to roost in; that is before the big freeze put paid to it.
Well, despite the fact that part of our reeded area in Phase 1 has temporarily been covered over during our engineering project, Michael and I observed over 2000 starlings performing their pre-roost aerobatics last night, shortly before filtering in to the reeds in Silt Lagoons 5 and 6. This was made even more spectacular by the addition of a pair of hunting peregrines (the size difference between the sexes was quite obvious).
When we finally see an end to the unseasonally mild conditions that we are currently experiencing, then it's likely that the flock will be joined by many more birds too.
All of this action can be seen from the public footpath that runs along the north-eastern reserve boundary.
Also of interest at the moment is a barn owl that has been seen three times over the last week along the southern boundary of the reserve.