Regular WeBS counter Stuart Carlton completed the latest monthly count last week on site - always a quiet time of year for this survey, but still some nice things around. Here are his results....
28 tufted duck
51 mute swan - impressive number
25 Canada goose
7 greylag goose
2 grey heron
9 great crested grebe
6 little ringed plover
5 black-headed gull
4 common tern
There are also plenty of insects around now too, with several species of butterfly on the wing. Painted lady's have started to make an appearance after an influx into the UK of this migrant species, the first large skippers are on the wing and common blues have appeared in the last few days. Odonata wise, there is loads to see, particularly around the Phase 1 grassland and water's edges, with red-eyed damselfly and hairy dragonfly being the highlights. Hairy dragonfly is a species expanding it's range northwards. They were first discovered at Langford in 2014, but after no records in 2015, they are back and it's great to see them. A pair seen in cop confirms breeding too!
Some other good insects around recently include the stunning wasp beetle, Clytus arietis, banded demoiselle, loads of drinker moth caterpillars, Cercopis vulnerata - large red and black froghopper and Rhogogaster - a bright lime green coloured sawfly.
Hairy dragonfly. Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
….after a longer wait than usual, we were treated to the beautiful sound of the first cuckoo singing at Langford on the 10th May. Usually arriving at least a week if not more earlier, we were beginning to wonder where our birds had got to! Cuckoos do well at Langford because we have a good population of one of their most common host species – the reed warbler. Laying their eggs in the rather fragile looking nests of the reed warbler, located deep in the reedbed, the young cuckoo is then left by it's mother to be raised solely by the little warblers – fascinating stuff.
There is currently a bird singing and showing well from the North Trail, often sitting on the perimeter fence line near Cromwell Lock, so keep an eye and ear open for it.
Unfortunately however, cuckoos have undergone a huge decline in recent years, particularly in England. More positive news however comes from Scotland where they are doing better. Two weeks ago I was on holiday on the Isle of Arran and was greeted with the sound of the island swarming with them – brilliant!
So with the addition of cuckoo, we now have our full compliment of summer migrants in and the breeding season is in full swing. There have been some interesting passage migrants too recently, with wood sandpiper, bar and black-tailed godwits and turnstone being the highlights of the waders. All occur at Langford on spring or autumn passage, but not every year, so it's always a real treat to see them. But the real excitement came on Thursday 12th May when Joe, Stuart and Steve were delighted to come across three black terns over Phase 1 whilst out planting reed. Black terns are gorgeous birds, with their striking black and grey plumage and graceful flight - these are only the third record on site in six years.
Cuckoo - finally back on site! John Bridges (rspb-images.com)
Well at least in terms of migrants it has - it didn't feel like it though last Thursday morning when I arrived to Langford in -2C! But despite the cooler weather, it has been lovely in the last few weeks to catch up with all our spring migrants and we now have the majority of our breeding birds back with us.
Warblers are always a feature of Langford in the breeding season. The very vocal Cetti's warbler is with us all year, but it isn't until March and April that we welcome back the hoardes of sedge and reed warblers onto site. Listen out in reedy areas for the distinctive slow, scratchy song of the reed warbler and in reed or scrubby areas for the faster, more erratic sedge warbler.
Both lesser and common whitethroat are now in and they can be heard in dry scrub areas around the periphery of the site. Common whitethroats often perform a distinctive song flight from the top of a bush, whereas lessers usually sing from deep inside the shrubs, but are unmistakable with their loud trill.
Blackcap and garden warbler have very similar songs, both slightly scratchy and very melodic and rich sounding at the same time. I always liken the song of the garden warbler to that of a blackbird and it is one of my personal favourites of all British bird song!
Chiffchaff is an easy one, with their onomatopoeic name and the very similar willow warbler with their glorious flowing, 'descending' song are also common around the site at this time of year.
And last but not least, the grasshopper warbler. Another unmistakable song and very aptly named for sounding just like....a grasshopper! There are currently 2 birds singing from the western boundary scrub and another singing from willow scrub at the eastern end of the boardwalk.
Other migrants on site include sand and house martin, swallow, swift, hobby, little ringed plover, common tern and yellow wagtail.
In fact the only regular we are still waiting for is cuckoo. As a reliable site for these beautiful, but sadly declining birds, we would expect the first ones in any time now - come on cuckoos! Please do let us know if you hear the first one.
A typical view of a newly arrived reed warbler perched in old reed stems. John Bridges (rspb-images.com)
Still waiting for a cuckoo! John Bridges (rspb-images.com)