It's a true pleasure to be able to mix work and pleasure. Our office is only a two minute dash from the freshwater marsh, and we all know how lucky we are to work in such a fabulous location. We manage to see most of the scarce or spectacular birds that drop in on the reserve be that during the course of our everyday jobs or during lunch breaks etc.
However, today all of the reserve staff and volunteers missed one of the most spectcular birds to have visited us for a long while. No it wasn't some waif or stray from Siberia, neither was it even particularly rare....but boy oh boy.... are these guys usually hard to see well!
A typical view of one, or should I say part of one, is through a great thicket of bushes and vegetation. If you are lucky you might, at most see a square inch or two of the bird because of all the intervening branches.
So when Ian McGregor came in to the visitor centre with these stunning shots of a long eared owl, taken as it flew in off the sea on migration, we were all very envious! Long eared owls are very scarce on the reserve, not even annual...we are very grateful to Ian for allowing us to use his images.
The sight of a thirty ton crane is pretty impressive but thankfully it is not of the avian (Grus grus) kind. A thirty ton bird would be pretty devastating to the foodchain of the reserve. So why do we have a large crane on site? Well its the next exciting phase of the coastal change project which will see the construction of the new Parrinder hide.
The hide is made from timber with a steel frame and is being delivered to site like a large piece of flat pack furniture. The sections are then being unloaded by the crane at the hide location before being put together like a jigsaw.
Thankfully it has already been put together in a workshop offsite so we know we have all the corner bits and there are no pieces missing. If all goes well construction should we be completed byend of October with the hide being open to visitors by early december.
In the last week, there has been an amazing westerly movement of waxwings through the reserve. In the last 7 days, we have recorded over 200 birds passing through.
Waxwing is a species that breeds in woodlands throughout Scandinavia east through Siberia towards the Pacific but leaves these areas in winter in search of its favoured food, rowan berries.
All of the birds have been seen flying over with the starling flocks. With a bit of practice, they can be located by their high-pitched trilling call and stand out within a flock as they are much paler.
With the hedgerows and orchards full of fruit at the moment and a large numbers of thrushes, starlings and finches, the old wives tale of an impending cold winter, may be true.
No, its not the sudden discovery of a volcano along the west bank path, but groups of bearded tits heading off to pastures new.
As part of their survival strategy, bearded tits group together in the autumn and these flocks burst out if the reeds high into the air and fly off. This behaviour was once thought to be a result of a good breeding season but is probably due to a reed seed crop failure and the birds are looking for new feeding sites. These birds can travel long distances and is has been speculated that birds arriving from Holland in the mid-1960’s helped to boost the breeding population in southern-England.
At the moment, mornings are the best time and the dodgy weather doesn’t seem to bother them too much.
…is one of the cries I have heard from photographers in the Island Hide this week! Their problem is that the birds have been feeding too close to the hide and that they can’t fit the whole bird into the shot.
Despite the hide being busy, the four little stints have often been found feeding within 20 metres of the packed hide and as you can see from these shots, they have been performing well.
The fresh marsh is also packed with wildfowl at the moment. Despite the construction work on the Parrinder Hide, the wintering wildfowl continue to arrive. On our lagoon count on Tuesday afternoon, we recorded 993 teal, 174 wigeon, 46 pintail, 150 shoveler and 142 lapwing.
A change in the wind direction and fog this morning, there has an arrival of migrants. Throughout the morning, people have been seeing small parties of thrushes (redwings and song thrushes), starlings, skylarks and pipits arriving off the sea from the North and heading inland. With the winds forecast to be from the East for the weekend, there is the chance of another yellow-browed warbler, or better, turning.
As the night-time temperatures have been quite high recently, we decided to run our moth trap again last night. Although the catch wasn’t very big we did find this beauty at the bottom. Despite its unusual name, the Merville du Jour is a fairly well distributed moth in England and Wales and can be found in broadleaved woodlands, parks and gardens. Their flight period is throughout September and October so we have the chance of catching a few more.