Well it still doesn't feel particularly spring like on site at the moment, with temperatures only hitting about 10C this week and that cold wind still making an appearance on some days. My insect sightings for the year are still looking decidedly poor, with no further butterfly records this week and a handful of queen bumblebees flying on the warmer, calmer days.
Much of my week has been spent working at our other site up at Beckingham Marshes, but thankfully we have plenty of birders reporting good stuff for us here at Langford. On Tuesday, the first avocets of the year were picked up by volunteer Dave Roberts on Phase 1, 2 birds were also seen this morning by volunteer Rob Werran. My Thursday morning bittern vigil produced a bird over Phase 2 at 05.20, followed later in the morning by a woodcock which flew up from the public footpath edge by the northern most silt lagoon, a flyover godwit species - frustratingly distant and silhouetted and plenty of sand martins and the first singing chiffchaffs recorded on this year's BBS.
Rock pipit, a flyover glaucous gull, redshank, dunlin, sand martin and ringed plover were highlights from Rob and Craig's visit on Thursday afternoon, volunteer Ellen Marshall was pleased to record peregrine on site on site yesterday, as was our Conservation Officer Carl Cornish, along with sand martin, ringed plover and 4 pintail.
204 whooper swans flew over this morning (with another/same 200 seen over the nearby village of Farnsfield) - obviously some movement going on today - I had a rather more modest 8 over my patch in Lincs!
Whooper swans on the move. Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)
After a relatively quiet winter on site, the reserve seemed to come alive yesterday, with some welcome sightings of species we haven't seen for a while, migrants coming in and a bittern bonanza!
First thing in the morning is arguably the best time for seeing and hearing birds and at Langford it certainly is one of the best times for bittern. An early morning vigil by Phase 2 - very early at 05.30 - was richly rewarded with the sighting of not 1, not 2, but 3 bitterns! I have suspected 3 birds on site for a while, so I'm pleased to confirm it. This is the highest number of confirmed bittern on site we have ever had and to hold three birds, albeit non-breeding, is a real positive step for such a young site. That wasn't the end of the bonanza however, with one of the birds seen again by myself and the Friday volunteer crew at 16.00 as we closed up the containers. A bird was also seen by Stuart and Tasia on Thursday morning.
An adult female marsh harrier drifted over Phase 2 at 10.00, spotted by John and Julie, this is the first marsh harrier record on site since late last year.
Migrants yesterday included the first sand martins of 2015, with two over the visitor trails early morning and up to five around Phase 2 later in the morning - great to see these back. A singing chiffchaff around the silt lagoons at lunchtime was my first of the year and migrants of the opposite kind included 24 whooper swans north over the visitor trails at 08.10 and c.300 fieldfare feeding in the field east of the North Trail, at 08.30.
The warm weather also brought out small tortoiseshell and peacock butterflies - peacock being my first of the year.
I have been eagerly awaiting signs of spring for a few weeks now - often from the middle of February onwards there is always the chance of a warm, sunny and calm day that brings out the odd queen bumblebee looking for a nesting site, or the first butterfly of the year. February too often brings the first chiffchaff song (23rd Feb last year) and a multitude of other bird species in song.
However, it wasn't until this Tuesday 10th March that I finally managed to see my first butterfly, a small tortoiseshell on the wing in Gainsborough on the way back from Beckingham Marshes. Back at Langford on the same afternoon, I was also treated to my first bumblebee spp. of the year feeding on willow catkins, followed by another at Beckingham Marshes yesterday. A chiffchaff has been seen twice on the southern public footpath in the last few days (thanks to John Ellis, Stuart Carlton, Tasia Dolby for this), but no singing as yet. And despite the good weather today, that has been our lot so far and with cooler and windy conditions forecast for the next week or so, I think it maybe a slow spring...
There is plenty to look forward too though over the coming weeks. It is always worth keeping an eye open for the first sand martins any time now and there are numerous wheatear in the country, swallow and osprey through. Little ringed plover won't be long arriving on site and as time moves on, listen out for the first blackcaps, willow warblers (first on 31st March last year!) and passage waders such as dunlin, sanderling, black-tailed godwit and whimbrel - all species that turn up at Langford on spring passage.
The first butterfly species of the year are usually brimstone, small tortoiseshell, peacock or comma - all species that overwinter as imago (adult) insects. Overwintering as adults means they are the first to emerge after the winter's hibernation. Any of these species are possible now on warm days, so keep a look out, especially along the eastern public footpath - this sheltered area is often the first place I see butterflies in the spring.
And finally, it won't be long now before the fabulous display of cowslips near the Beach Hut comes into bloom. This is well worth seeing and it certainly adds a splash of welcome colour at the end of the long, cold winter.