I've been away on holiday in Scotland for a week and came back to a multitude of new species out for the year on my walk around site yesterday. It's always surprising when you come back after a break at this time of year - the most noticeable thing is the height of the new reed growth, it looks a foot taller than before I left and is such a lush green colour. Trees looked to have greened up, the woodland canopy has closed over and there are several species of plant new in flower. Most noticeable yesterday was the stunning contrast of bright yellow bird's-foot trefoil next to the deep pink/purple of common vetch. Where grass vetchling enters the mix, it looks even better, with it's fuscia pink blooms. It's fabulous to see so much grass vetchling in flower on site again this year - this is a scarce plant in Nottinghamshire and has exploded since it was first discovered by our Conservation Officer Carl Cornish in 2012. An amazing display of ragged robin on Phase 2 was also pretty special and yellow rattle, red clover and ox-eye daisy are now out too.
This floral display has benefitted newly emerged insects on the wing too. I had my first common blue butterflies yesterday (larvae of which feed on bird's-foot trefoil), common blue damselflies, four-spot chasers and several other butterfly species on the wing. I was pleased to see some Coleoptera in the form of Oedemera lurida, Cantharis rufa and Cantharis rustica and the stunning lime green sawfly, Rhogogaster is always a treat.
Bird highlights recent have included a little stint, first reported by volunteer Stuart Carlton and another or same subsequently seen by several others on Phase 2, large groups of dunlin on passage, turnstone and sanderling seen by Carl, hobbys galore over Phase 1, with up to 9 reported one day last week, a brief view of a bittern on the silt lagoons from the public footpath, lapwing and ringed plover chicks doing well on Phase 3 yesterday and a sand martin with a large number of white tail and rump feathers seen by volunteer Dave Roberts yesterday.
This is just a very quick blog about sand martins, because I love them and am very relieved to have them back on site! My worrying was justified until yesterday, as there was no activity in our sand martin bank at all - after the previous three years of being very successful. We had noticed reduced numbers of birds on site, leading us to believe that they were maybe just a little late, however reports of birds excavating at other sites was concerning.
However, yesterday morning I was thrilled to see around 30 holes in the bank - the birds must have started either Wednesday evening or early Thursday morning. A quick count later in the day by volunteer Stuart Carlton revealed 32 holes on the go. We hope this number will grow to the sort of levels we have had in previous years (200+ in 2013), so fingers crossed for the birds success.
Also yesterday of note, we had a large influx of swifts, with 30+ birds feeding over our storage containers at 09.30. Lovely to see these.
Sand martin on our bank in 2012. Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)
Volunteer Sunday was upon us once again this weekend and May is always a lovely time of year to get out and enjoy the site. This month we usually do a bit of work in the morning and then take the afternoon to have a walk around, see what's about and enjoy the fruits of the past year's labours!
Despite the terrible weather forecast and torrential downpour, 9 people arrived bright and early for a morning of site maintenance. We like to keep our visitor trails looking good, so a spot of weeding and tidying up the gravel path to the new viewing screen was definitely in order. Similarly, the gravel path at the western end of the boardwalk was also given a thorough tidy up and the bench overlooking the floating bridge is now clear of excess vegetation too. Thanks all for a great effort (in the rain!), the place looks so much better for this work.
So, to our afternoon walk, well fortunately the sun just happened to come out as we finished lunch and set off around the Phase 1 trails and onto Phase 2. Hobby was the definite highlight of the afternoon, giving us a spectacular display a close range in front of the new viewing screen. Such smashing birds - this bird was close enough to see the red 'trousers', it's great to see them catch and eat insects in mid air. Also recorded throughout the afternoon were avocet, common tern, snipe, buzzard and a lovely whimbrel showing well on Phase 2, giving it's distinctive call as it flew in front of us and down onto the shoreline.
And the thunderstorm even waited until we got back to the office for a cuppa!
Thanks all for another very productive and enjoyable day.
Atmospheric reeds by Barrington Randle.