My first job this morning was to write a blog about yesterday's 'Starling Spectacular' walk; the second of this winter. However, it would seem that ChristineB beat me too it on our forum and added some great images that really captured the event!
Whilst the murmuration seemed slightly muted by the strong wind, it was still quite impressive. However, I have to say that I think the starlings were upstaged last night by what was probably the most spectacular sunset that I've ever seen!
As winter advances, the weather still seems vey autumn like, with nighttime temperatures only occasionally dropping to zero and sunny, calm days hitting double figures! Consequently, numbers of winter migrants here at Langford are still not as high as they have been in recent, colder Decembers, with presumably fewer birds moving westwards from the continent.
However, there has still been plenty to keep us entertained on site last week, highlights including –
Up to 5 goldeneye on Phase 1, Phase 2 and the silt lagoons
2 whooper swans regularly roosting on silt lagoon 5
A big tit and finch flock by the viewing screen including all the common species, but we have also recorded lesser redpoll in the last week and it’s always worth looking out for bramblings at this time of year feeding with other finches and buntings.
Coal tit still feeding with other tits by the woodland – a scarce species here at Langford it is nice to see it regularly on site. It has been two years now since our last winter marsh tit records, so please do let us know if you come across one.
Both green and great spotted woodpeckers have been showing well in the last week. Look our for green woodpeckers perched on top of willow trees around the silt lagoons and great spots calling in the woodland and by the viewing screen.
A large flock of fieldfare and redwing were making their way down Westfield Lane (the road to Collingham that follows our northern boundary) on Friday as I went to check the Trent.
The starlings continue to delight us every evening, with the best display I’ve seen so far this winter on Friday when 9000 birds joined the murmuration and then went into roost in silt lagoon 6. Numbers are still fluctuating each night with between 4000-9000 birds, they now seem to be favouring the silt lagoon area.
And finally, performing peregrines over Phase 2! I have seen peregrine regularly in the last two weeks, but two birds over Phase 2 on Wednesday last week put on an excellent show. One bird continuously stooped at the other, calling all the time, with the second bird swooping and diving as the first bird stooped at it. They carried on for about 3 minutes, eventually disappearing to the north over Phase 1. Perhaps a pair interacting, or an adult bird interacting with a juvenile.
Peregrine. Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)
Yesterday was our final volunteer Sunday of 2013 and what an excellent day we had in glorious sunshine – it was even quite warm! 12 people arrived bright and early for a day of scrub management up on Phase 1.
Management of this scrub block began last winter and was soon suspended due to the site flooding, however the small area we worked on last winter has already started to show positive benefits, with increased light levels leading to increased floral diversity among the scrub and a nice diversity of age structure within the scrub itself. This should improve invertebrate diversity and numbers, with corresponding benefits to organisms higher up the food web such as birds and mammals.
The area we are working on at the moment is looking so much better already, but there is plenty left to do that should keep us busy for the rest of the winter! With flowering plants such as cowslips, knapweeds and clovers already encroaching into last winter’s managed area, we hope that our work this year will show benefits by as early as next summer.
And after a hard day’s work in the scrub block, what better way to end the day than with a starling murmuration? We stood on Phase 1 and enjoyed the swirling flocks of around 6000 birds over the balancing pond and Phase 2 – a spectacle that I could never tire of!
Also on site yesterday was a chiffchaff on the silt lagoons – thanks to volunteer John Ellis for this sighting, woodcock on the quarry entrance as I drove out at 5 o’clock, male goldeneye on Phase 2 and redshank calling on Phase 1. We even had a peacock butterfly on the wing by our office at lunchtime - not a bad record for 1st December and a sign of how nice the weather was!
And as always, many thanks to all who attended for another highly productive and enjoyable day.
Sunset over Phase 1 - thanks to James Cox for the photo.