Whilst one swallow may not a summer make, several dozen of them, hawking over the pools at Radipole this morning certainly make a great spring, even if, watching them sweeping over the water and roosting on the reed stems, chattering madly to each other, with the wind and the rain all around, you could forgive them if they turned round and headed back to Africa! Warmer days are, however, just around the corner and, in anticipation of the mass arrival of the swallow’s near cousin, construction of our artificial sand martin wall is now underway.
The first of its kind in Dorset, we hope to have the wall completed in the next 2 or 3 weeks, in time for the arrival of the bulk of these wonderful brown and white birds and, with 60 holes, they will have plenty of homes to chose from. The wall will be viewable form North Hide but we will also install remote cameras, allowing us to capture the whole amazing life story, from nest building, through egg laying and hatching right up to the first flight of the young, and we hope to be able to show these images on the television in the visitor centre so you can watch the spectacle unfold before your eye whilst you are doing the shopping!
The guys are doing a great job, in spite of the terrible weather, and, as the wall develops, we will post more pictures so you can watch the progress of this amazing addition to the Weymouth Wetlands.
Yesterday afternoon we found out that an Alpine Swift was seen briefly over Lodmoor during the afternoon but quickly disappeared, so we were delighted to see it flying around over Radipole Lake this morning.
Alpine Swifts are rare visitors to the UK, mainly in spring. They usually found in the mountains of Southern Europe all the way to the Himalayas. Because of the southerly wind over the past week, this bird has overshot its migration along with over 20 others which are flying around various other parts of the UK as far north as Scotland! Unlike some other lost migrants, this bird will almost certainly make it back to it breeding grounds in time for the breeding season.
It will be another month or so before our normal Swifts arrive back which makes this bird easy to pick out. It differs from Common Swift in being much larger and having a White belly and chin. They roost on vertical surfaces such as walls and cliffs, so hopefully it will roost in Weymouth overnight and wow even more visitors tomorrow.
Yes folks, there is such a thing as an interesting moth! Radipole isn’t just a superb place for birds it’s also a really great place for a vast variety of other species. A few hours moth trapping last night certainly proved that when a Small Eggar flew into the trap. It’s a very local species and is of conservation concern. Years ago it was a fairly regular species but has rapidly decline due to the removal of hedge networks and scrub clearance. Radipole Lake has some really nice scrubby areas which could potentially be a breeding spot for the Small Eggar, so a bit more investigation work is required!
Go to a RSPB reserve of course!
I spend pretty much my whole working week at Radipole Lake, so decided today, on my day off, to go over to nearby Lodmoor. I know its a bit sad going birding on my day off when all I really do all week in work is bird watch (don't tell the boss!). I am the first to admit that I am a bit of a nerdy birder who keeps a year list, life list etc so a day off give me chance to get a few 'Year Ticks'. Those aren’t those annoying little critters that attach themselves to your leg and steal blood; it’s actually a new species that I haven’t seen yet this year. After yesterdays Sand Martins at Radipole, I thought I’d have a good chance at Lodmoor. I am pleased to say i was right and saw at least five of these little wanderers feeding busily over the reedbed.
Year ticks aside I also got a load of other nice species which are always a pleasure to set eyes on. Spoonbill and Bittern were probably the best of the bunch but a nice highlight was a few pairs of Oystercatcher getting paired up and being very vocal. Chiffchaffs and a few White Wagtails were the only other migrants apart from sand martin.
I really must apologies for the Spoonbill photo. My excuse is the misty murky weather rather than my inability to work a camera properly. To veiw the picture click on the title 'what to do on a day off' and then click the attatchment link which i placed underneath the blog entry.
Only a few hours after i wrote about the lack of migrants, particularly Sand Martins, we had a visitor come into the Centre and said they had seen two Sand Martins flying over one of the areas of open water. This was great news and hopefully there will be more to come in the next few days. There are also a couple of other migrants turning up locally, including a trio of Garganey which usually arrive on the reserve and cause a lot of excitement. These three are down on the fleet but Radipole and Lodmoor usually get a few of these stunning ducks.