Regular readers will have read about our little newt found in the polytunnel a few weeks ago. Well, we managed to find another one (or the same one?) last Friday and this time had the camera! So, can anyone assist us with it's identification? It was around 55mm long (I suspect not fully grown) and had no spotting at all on the underside of the throat or belly. I've read that the key is in the orange line that runs down the newt's back - all the way onto the tail for palmate newt, part way for smooth newt. I suspect this is a smooth newt, Lissotriton vulgaris. Let us know your thoughts....
And safely returned to the water!
I never stop talking about the weather! It was nice to do a WeBS (Wetland Bird Survey) in warm sunshine today though, something which hasn't happened for some time! Here are this morning's results....
122 tufted duck, 82 mallard, 15 teal, 9 gadwall, 1 pochard, 1 goldeneye, 21 mute swan, 13 canada goose, 4 greylag goose, 2 shelduck, 70 coot, 1 moorhen, 5 little egret, 3 grey heron, 6 great crested grebe, 5 little ringed plover, 1 ringed plover, 3 oystercatcher, 3 lapwing, 1 redshank, 1 green sandpiper, 2 snipe, 2 cormorant.
And some photos from this morning....
My first comma of 2013 - there were two together on the public footpath near the woodland.
Bombylius major, a bee fly, fantastic little insects - members of the Order Diptera (True Flies).
Pied shieldbug, or Tritomegas bicolor - there were lots of these among the emerging nettles by the woodland.
The green shieldbug, or Palomena prasina, this species loses it's green colouration in the winter, regaining it again in the spring - this individual is yet to turn green.
Bombus pascuorum, the common ginger bumblebee - my first of the year by the silt lagoons.
I set off to do a Breeding Bird Survey in bright sunshine and 11C this morning, albeit with a strong south westerly blowing! I was hopeful, since this was the warmest morning this spring and I wasn’t disappointed.
My first new migrants of the year were two arctic terns flying over the public footpath just as I left the office – a brilliant start to the morning and my first arctic terns on site since May 2010! Next was a singing willow warbler on the public footpath near the woodland – the first of 8 singing on site. This was accompanied by 2 chiffchaffs, whose numbers increased to 4 by the end of the survey.
Phases 1 and 2 were full of hirundines, with all three species well represented and my first house martins of 2013. And the flood damaged sand martin bank was repaired just in time, with the birds swarming around it and about 40 holes on the go already! Phase 2 also produced my first yellow wagtails of the year this morning too, with four individuals feeding with three white wagtails.
Little ringed plovers, lapwings and oystercatchers were all present on Phase 1 and the old silt lagoon, a pair of jays flew from the woodland towards the silt lagoons and 3 lesser redpolls feeding on larch cones in the woodland provided a taste of winter still lingering.
And….some insects! My first Bombylius major (bee fly) of 2013 was flying on the woodland edge and basking in sunshine giving a brilliant view – what a fantastic looking creature. A tawny mining bee too was enjoying this warm sheltered spot, basking on an old umbellifer stem. A peacock butterfly flew out from some emerging nettles and plenty of bumblebees were on the wing, including Bombus terrestris and Bombus lapidarius. And with one flying at 06.50 this morning, it must be spring – about time!
I found this metallic green ground beetle on Phase 2 this afternoon whilst looking for green tiger beetles. No tigers, but this little chap was a nice find. Look out for an ID later on in the week.
What a beautiful day it was yesterday, with warm sunshine, no cold wind and April’s volunteer Sunday. Everyone who attended definitely picked the best day as we worked out on Phases 1 and 2, it definitely felt like spring.
Our volunteer birders John, Graham and Julie were up before dawn to do the annual water rail survey on site, covering all the likely areas where the birds might be residing. In total they found four squealing rails across the site, a definite improvement on last year's two. They also picked up a red kite over the southern end of the site - great record.
At a more sensible hour(!), we then started the day by reinstating the fence around the flood damaged sand martin bank, which has now been repaired and looks great – just in time for the arrival of the birds! We then made our way out onto Phase 1 for the first time since November. Here we worked on dismantling some old reed protection cages that were damaged in the flood and rebuilt them around some exposed reed on the central island. The area now looks so much better and we have some extra reed growth protected from grazing geese and coots.
Next on the list was an interesting and novel method of reed propagation. The floods left a ‘strand line’ of debris around most of the site, much of it vegetable matter consisting of lots of old reed stems, many of them dormant but still very much alive. On each stem are several nodes, or growth points, which when given the right conditions (wet, muddy/silty substrate) will form roots and stems giving rise to several new reed plants from just one old stem. We have already seen this happening on Phase 1 last summer.
So, we collected up these old reed stems from the strand line and scattered them onto our old silt lagoon reed creation area. Over the summer, these stems will indeed send out roots and shoots, providing an extra boost to our already developing reedbed.
Little ringed plovers, redshank, oystercatchers and small tortoiseshell butterfly provided the wildlife entertainment throughout the day.
And a huge thank you to everyone who attended for a productive and very enjoyable day.