Well It is the end of 2011 so I couldn't resist the obligatory best bits post. Why not let us know your best bit by leaving a comment.
Record waterfowl numbers on the reserve
This year has seen the highest numbers of waterfowl ever recorded on the reserve. A few years ago I would have got very excited about seeing 900 teal on the reserve so this year when I counted 2300 I did a little jig. The reason for the high numbers? Could be a number of factors but the most significant is the improvements we have made to the habitats. Removal of the reed edge and more dynamic water levels in the fresh marsh has increased foods availability and accessibility. One of my colleagues might call this tinkering, so lets keep tinkering in 2012.
Two bittern nests
If this blog had been active in April 2005 there would have been another record of the site manager dancing on the reserve. In this instance it would have been because of the successful return of breeding bittern after 18 years absence. 2011 was equally satisfying as we had two nests for the first time ever. The birds were seen very well in June as the females were busy feeding there young. One of the families left the nest early, which is common in bitterns, but the views provided as the female fed the young were far from common and were probably the most watched event of the year. As one regular but infrequent visitors said ‘I’ve been here every day for four days just to see this. This is a once in a life time view of an intimate part of this rare birds life.’
The BIG project
Couldn’t do a top five without mentioning the Coastal Change Project. After 7 years of my life (more for some of the project team) we finally completed the ground works for this hugely ambitious project. After spending £1.5m we have a newly improved and protected suite of habitats, an award winning hide, improved paths and viewing, and new trails (opening late 2012). Its taken lots of effort from staff, volunteers and contractors, lots money from funders and RSPB supporters and lots of support from people like YOU. Hope you like what we have done with the place and there will be more improvements in 2012 as we open the new trails.
Hard to Swallow follow
One of my most memorable wildlife experiences this summer was the swallows which took to feeding in the pathway to Parrinder hide. This only lasted for a few days but on the several occasions I stood down there with birds flying by as they caught their lunch on the wing, sometimes skimming the edge of my jacket or cap , the reactions from every passer by was the same. WOW. In fact every passer by was stopped for a significant time before they started passing by again.
If you follow this blog you’ll know all about Ray. I’ve loved Ray’s challenge to see as much wildlife on the reserve, over the past twelve months. It’s bought a little buzz to our team and we’ve all learnt a lot more about ALL NATURE.
I’ve always considered my self more of a naturalist than just a birder so if you were to ask me what my New Years resolution was it would have to be to make more time for all nature.
Happy New Year
Joining an RSPB Local Group is a fantastic way of sharing your passion for birds with like-minded people, making friends and learning about wildlife in your local area.
Here are the next dates of the West Norfolk RSPB Local Group's indoor and outdoor meetings. If you would like to attend or require further information, call Neil Stephenson on 01553 828752. Non-members are always welcome!
Sunday 8th January 2012 8.00am
Annual Bird Race. Start and finish from Knights Hill, Farmers Arms pub, King’s Lynn. Enter or join a team and have a great day out birding in the New Year — good luck! Please hand in Team Tick List by 4.30pm in the bar. TF667229.
Sunday 22nd January 2012 10.00am
RSPB Buckenham & Cantley Marshes. Part of the RSPB Mid-Yare Valley reserves and a good place for ducks and geese, including bean. Corvid roost worth a look at dusk. Meet at Buckenham railway station car park TG351057. Facilities at nearby RSPB Strumpshaw Fen.
Wednesday 25th January 2012
“A History of Birds Locally” – Fred Cooke. Fred is a biologist and ornithologist who spent much of his working life in Canada. Now retired, he is an active member of the BTO and on the National Council of the RSPB.
Ray's final update for the year. We wish him a very merry Christmas also; it has been a pleasure to follow his wildlife antics and I am certainly looking forward to what he may discover on the reserve in the new year!
OK. I thought that identifying 1000 wildlife species by the end of the year was a tall order - I was right, it was! Since starting at the end of July 2010 my total has reached 937, but there are over 80 that I've not got to grips with.
Starting on January 1st: I'm going to try and see if I can beat this total in one calender year while at the same time keep adding to the total. Ray's Rambles has for me been most rewarding, and 2011 has ended on a real high with two excellent birds - a coues' arctic redpoll that has spent the last couple of weeks feeding with lesser and mealy redpolls in the alder trees near the visitor centre, and a first winter caspian gull that has visited the freshmarsh on a daily basis for the last week.
Both birds have been quite elusive, but easily recognised once they have been found. Although with patience the redpoll's 'pushed-in' face, thick neck and undertail features were viewable, the fact that the left side of it's tail was short made it easy to spot. Personally, I was more interested in the gull, it being only the second I have ever seen and the first that I could have a good long look at. I found its most striking points were its rather long parallel-sided black bill, white face with a little grey flecking around the eye, distinct grey shawl, whitish breast and long primary projection beyond the broadly black-tipped tail.
I can hardly wait for the new walk east of the fen hide to open sometime next year; it will give us all a new bit of the reserve to explore, and I know there are a few plants there that are not presently on my list.
May I take this opportunity to wish everyone who has either followed my progress or helped me with identification problems, and especially Nicola Swann who has patiently set up this blog every fortnight, a very Merry Christmas and a great wildlife New Year - bring it on!