Sightings this week include the usual mixture of blackbird, coal tit, great tit, blue tit, chaffinch, greenfinch, goldfinch, dunnock, yellowhammer, tree sparrow, house sparrow and pheasant on or around the feeders at the Visitor centre. There has also been plenty of yellowhammer, tits and finches in the hedgerows and around 50 each of linnet, twite, skylark and reed bunting were recorded earlier in the week as part of a wintering passerine survey.
Curlew have been taking advantage of the flooded fields, often saw in flocks of 20 or more probing the soft mud in search of tasty morsels. Snipe have also been seen from the hides feeding in the wet grasslands and lapwing continue to be seen in the fields behind the visitor centre, and are now beginning to display, claiming territories and attempting to attract a mate.
Treecreeper and goldcrest have been seen in the woodlands approaching the Mieda hide and out from the hide there continues to be large numbers of pintail and shoveler along with mallard, wigeon, gadwall, tufted duck, teal, mute swan, grey heron, goldeneye, moorhen and a male scaup.
Sightings of a ringtail hen harrier continue to be reported frequently along with occasional reports of a male hen harrier. There have also been sightings of buzzard, kestrel, sparrowhawk, tawny owl and barn owl.
Barn owl - Photo credit: John Bridges (rspb-images.com)
On the beach there has been ringed plover, dunlin, shelduck, oystercatcher and redshank and a solitary male stonechat was seen around the farm buildings.
Other sightings include roe deer, badger, fox, mole, rabbit and brown hare’ boxing in a field, a definite sign that spring is finally here!!!
Many different people have different ideas of when spring begins. For some it can be seeing the first buds appearing on trees, the first flowers to bloom, the first frog spawn appearing in ponds, hearing woodpeckers drumming on trees, the first butterfly or bee to be seen on the wing. For others it's seeing the first warblers return, hearing a cuckoo calling, seeing hares boxing in a field or the smell of wild garlic filling your nostrils as you wander through woodlands. For me it's a combination and escalation of all those factors and more. As I sense and experience each one, the feeling of spring grows within me and fills me with anticipation for the year to come.
Great spotted woodpecker- Photo credit: Tom Marshall (rspb-images.com)
Take a walk around Mersehead at this time of year and you cannot miss all the hints that Spring is fast approaching, snowdrops and crocuses in bloom, other flowers such as daffodils, sorrel and dog violets starting to develop, a notable increase in the amount of bird song and activity as territories are staked and claimed and if you look closely enough, insects that would have hibernated over the winter starting to become more active.
Some recent sighting from the reserve include large numbers of linnets feeding in the fields, yellowhammers busily moving through the hedgerows, a little egret feeding in the merse, flocks of twite feeding along the strandline on the beach, a ringtail hen harrier frequently seen from both the hides, the ever present large flocks of barnacle geese including a leucistic barnacle goose, a green-winged teal, water rail, otter, badger, roe deer and so many more.
Yellowhammer – Photo credit: Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
According to many sources spring begins on the 1 March and ends on the 31 May. For many people though, spring begins on the date of the spring equinox, 20 March but I don't think you can so easily put a precise date on such a fluid event, something that will be affected by the weather, your location within the UK and local conditions. What I can say for certain is that the build up to Spring is certainly progressing, and a very welcome progression it is!
With slowly increasing day length and improving weather one of our residential volunteers decided to take full advantage by getting down to the shore before dawn to watch the geese take to the skies and move from the safety of the mudflats to their grazing sites inland.
He was immediately rewarded by the sight and sound of a pair of tawny owls calling to each other from around the farm buildings prior to 7am.
Around 7am he was rewarded further with the sight of around 3,000 pink-footed geese rising up in one massive flock and sweeping northward. This was followed by the slow trickle of thousands of barnacle geese in a multitude of smaller flocks heading in a variety of directions. Other birds that were seen on the beach were oystercatcher, curlew, shelduck, ringed plover, grey plover and redshank.
Shelduck – Photo credit:Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)
Walking back up through Rainbow lane there were numerous skylarks half heartedly displaying in the fields and a trio of golden plover amongst large amounts of lapwing.
On the approach to the Visitor Centre from the top of Rainbow Lane and on or around the feeders there were chaffinch, goldfinch, greenfinch, blue tit, great tit, coal tit, blackbird, tree sparrow, house sparrow, pheasant, pied wagtail and dunnock along with a solitary little egret that could be seen flying towards the merse.
Continuing down the track towards the junction to the first hide there were yellowhammers and reed bunting and the sound of a distantly drumming great spotted woodpecker.
From the Bruaich hide there were a few teal, shoveler, mallard and a green-winged teal. Roe deer could be seen moving across the wet grassland and a ringtail hen harrier flew overhead disturbing a small flock of snipe. Two juvenile mute swans that landed briefly on the water were quickly seen off by the two resident adult mute swans.
Continuing onwards down the track to the woodland strip there were flocks of linnet joined with a few twite feeding in the fields. In the woodland itself the rooks were busy building their nests and a group of long-tailed tits were seen moving through the woodland as were a few very busy looking wren. A goldcrest was heard singing from the treetops but could not be seen.
From the Meida hide there were more teal, shoveler and mallard along with pintail, gadwall, wigeon, little grebe and moorhen. A buzzard was seen flying over the hilltops in the distance making a total of 46 species of bird seen or heard in a single morning!
Pintail – Photo credit: Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)