Yesterday was our final volunteer Sunday of 2013 and what an excellent day we had in glorious sunshine – it was even quite warm! 12 people arrived bright and early for a day of scrub management up on Phase 1.
Management of this scrub block began last winter and was soon suspended due to the site flooding, however the small area we worked on last winter has already started to show positive benefits, with increased light levels leading to increased floral diversity among the scrub and a nice diversity of age structure within the scrub itself. This should improve invertebrate diversity and numbers, with corresponding benefits to organisms higher up the food web such as birds and mammals.
The area we are working on at the moment is looking so much better already, but there is plenty left to do that should keep us busy for the rest of the winter! With flowering plants such as cowslips, knapweeds and clovers already encroaching into last winter’s managed area, we hope that our work this year will show benefits by as early as next summer.
And after a hard day’s work in the scrub block, what better way to end the day than with a starling murmuration? We stood on Phase 1 and enjoyed the swirling flocks of around 6000 birds over the balancing pond and Phase 2 – a spectacle that I could never tire of!
Also on site yesterday was a chiffchaff on the silt lagoons – thanks to volunteer John Ellis for this sighting, woodcock on the quarry entrance as I drove out at 5 o’clock, male goldeneye on Phase 2 and redshank calling on Phase 1. We even had a peacock butterfly on the wing by our office at lunchtime - not a bad record for 1st December and a sign of how nice the weather was!
And as always, many thanks to all who attended for another highly productive and enjoyable day.
Sunset over Phase 1 - thanks to James Cox for the photo.
I was joined by 32 visitors on Sunday 17th November, for the first of our 'Starling Spectacular'- themed walks.
The group saw approximately 3000 birds 'murmurating' for about 20 minutes, which at the time was the longest we'd seen this season.
As you'll have seen from Jenny's recent blog, the roost has now increased in size, as we'd hoped. This is probably due to 'our' birds being joined by continental birds that have been reported migrating over the east coast by the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) recently.
As well as the starlings, other wildlife highlights included very good views of two roe deer and two whooper swans.
We only have a few places left on the December walk, but still plenty left on the January one. Details can be found on our web page.
Anyone familiar with Langford will know that every winter, starlings utilise our developing reedbeds for roosting. Numbers fluctuate greatly from year to year, with around 10,000 in 2010 (my first year here), growing to a massive 40,000 last winter.
This year is no exception to the rule and so far the numbers are up to 4000-5000 tonight reported by our Site Manager, Michael. This is the largest number we have seen this winter, with only 2000-3000 last week and around 800 the week before. We do hope that the numbers will continue to increase as the weeks go by, with the roost predicted to peak in December - early January.
Interestingly it's not just their numbers that fluctuate, their behaviour seems to as well. Some evenings they will put on a lovely display in the sky, twisting and turning synchronously - quite a spectacle. However, other evenings they seem to chose to drop into the reeds almost straight away! They have also moved their preferrerd roosting spot this year too. Last winter, the majority of birds were using silt lagoon 6 (the last one on the left as you walk up the public footpath). This winter they are further north, roosting in the thicker areas of reed at the northern end of Phase 1.
The best place to see the murmuration is either from the viewing screen or on the public footpath north of the viewing screen, from 15.45 onwards and do look out too for predators amongst the flock. Sparrowhawks and merlins will take starlings in the air as they gather.
And finally, if anyone fancies having a go at estimating numbers, do please let us know how many you think we have!