Ever fancied wardening your own reserve? Well, now is you chance....we are currently looking for Volunteer Wardens for our Beckingham Marshes site, near Gainsborough. For anyone who is unfamiliar with Beckingham, it is managed by us based here at Langford and is on the Nottinghamshire side of the Trent opposite Gainsborough and just east of the village of Beckingham. It is a wet grassland site - quite different to Langford and is managed for breeding waders, has good numbers of wintering wildfowl and a thriving tree sparrow colony.
Please read on for the role description - you can also find this on the volunteering pages of the RSPB website....
Volunteer Warden - Beckingham Marshes
Why we want you
Without a visitor reception area volunteer wardens provide a point of contact, welcoming visitors and the local community, enhancing their visitor experience. Reduce disturbance by guiding people to formal access and monitor visitor numbers and provide information on birds seen. The site is also unmanned for much of the time, so we need someone to keep an eye out for things such as failure of the perimeter fence integrity, damage to our visitor infrastructure or evidence of criminal behaviour and report back to the Warden.
What’s in it for you?
The opportunity to be the public face of the RSPB on one of the Society's magical wetland reserves and to be an essential part of a team, which relies heavily on volunteer support. The RSPB is an active and exciting conservation charity, the largest in Europe! We can help you gain skills and give you a valuable insight into our work.
The skills you need
To be good with people, friendly disposition, enthusiasm for RSPB, tact and diplomacy. Some natural history/conservation knowledge an advantage, as is a willingness to learn.
Minimum commitment: A minimum of 1 day per month. Duration: Ongoing - all year round. We are looking for 5-6 people to join the existing Volunteer Warden, with the aim of having cover on site all days of the week.
If you are interested in this exciting opportunity, please contact Jenny Wallace on either 01636 893611 or e-mail email@example.com
It's been great in the last couple of weeks or so to see the first juvenile birds around the site, after such a slow start to the spring I certainly think it's rather late to be seeing the first young of some species. So far the list includes robin, song thrush, blackcap, blue, great, long-tailed and willow tit (see last week's post!), treecreeper, mallard, coot, moorhen, shelduck (first confirmed on site since 2010), little ringed plover, ringed plover, lapwing and most recently, mute swan. Only 2 cygnets seem to have hatched on site so far, but still lovely to see them feeding away on Phase 1 with their parents.
Still notably absent so far this year are any great crested grebe young and with at least 5-6 pairs on site and regular breeding in recent years, I would hope to see some this year - do keep an eye open and let us know if you see any.
Insects are gradually increasing, with promising numbers of painted lady. Painted ladies are truly remarkable insects, but not alone in their impressive migrations from north Africa, through southern Europe to the UK. In years of abundance further south, huge numbers of butterflies can make the journey to northern Europe (including the UK) as their foodplants deplete further south. It is predicted that 2015 may be a 'painted lady year', with massive numbers of the butterfly reaching our shores. The last time this happened was 2009, so it would be most welcome to see large numbers again this year.
Painted ladies aren't the only Lepidopteran species to migrate long distances of course....the last two years at Langford have seen good numbers of clouded yellow - another species that, like the painted lady migrates from further south sometimes in numbers. Even tiny moths are capable of making the journey too, the diamond-back moth, Plutella xylostella, a micro moth of the Plutellidae family, is capable of migrating long distances much like painted ladies or clouded yellows, but has a wingspan of a mere 13-15mm - fabulous!
Odonata-wise, we now have both emperor dragonfly and brown hawker on the wing, as well as thousands of common blue and azure damselflies and one of my personal favourites, the red-eyed damselfly.
....no, not the common Geometrid moth that one may find in a July moth trap, but a willow beauty of a different kind!
On Tuesday morning this week, we were overjoyed to find a juvenile willow tit in scrub on the northern edge of silt lagoon 6 - this is the willow scrub that you can see on the lagoon edge from the gate behind the Beach Hut. This is significant for several reasons, firstly because it is only the third willow tit record in five years from Langford, after one in June/July 2010 and another in September 2014. Secondly, it is a local breeding record of a species that we haven't yet picked up as breeding either on site to locally to the site. And thirdly and most important of all, willow tit is a sadly declining species, having become extinct from many former areas in recent years and now a species that many of us don't see from one year to the next.
The willow tit is a bird of damp scrub and woodland, particularly with a lower tree canopy and a well developed shrub layer. They are cavity nesters, laying 6-8 eggs in a clutch and feeding young on a variety of invertebrates. Adults will also feed on seeds in the winter months. There are only around 3400 pairs of willow tit in the UK, such low numbers reflecting the species decline since the 1970's.
Their scientific name, Poecile montanus comes from the Greek and Latin meaning 'spotted mountaineer', an interesting name considering their relatively lowland habitat preference here in the UK. However, elsewhere in Europe they can be found at higher elevations, up to the tree line.
Whilst notoriously difficult to distinguish from the closely related marsh tit, Poecile palustris, there are several things that you can look out for. Willow tits have a dark base to the bill, whereas marsh have a light grey colouration in this area, just as the bill reaches the face. The black cap is dull, as opposed to glossy in marsh and extends further back down the nape to the mantle. The cheeks are white in willow, beige in marsh and willow displays a light wing panel on the closed wing, formed by the light edges of the feathers.
The most reliable way to tell willow and marsh tit apart however, is by call. Willow give a high pitched 'zee-zee-zee' or 'zrr-zrr-zrr' call, whereas marsh give a distinctive 'pitchoo'. Listen out for willow tit call around the silt lagoon area from the public footpath and path to the Beach Hut in the coming weeks. We have also had marsh tit winter on site before, so keep this in mind too later in the year.
Willow tit. Mike Langman (rspb-images.com)