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Despite there still been a 'kald' NW wind chilling the marshland air the breeding birds on the reserve are still hatching and rearing young wherever you look and with a bit of sunshine this morning I was a bit taken aback with the number of coot chicks, mallard ducklings and this fine fleet of little mute swan cygnets out on Singleton (see below). Also plenty of black headed gulls chicks on marshland but as per usual the avocets seem to be taking a pasting from anything that takes a fancy to a small parcel of protein, no one major culprit but a medley of heron, black headed gull, marsh harrier and peregrine! Nature can certainly be cruel at this time of year and unfortunately predation can be hard to watch, but it is all part of the natural system.
And a little line of mallard chicks just like at the fairground!
The male Montagu's harrier has been showing pretty well recently although again at times you have to have patience, enjoy the marsh harriers and keep a look out for bittern which has been seen every day for over a week now. Also watch out for hobby skimming low over the reedbed.
Hunting male marsh harrier at First hide
Avocets giving a marshie some grief
Not many waders at the moment as one would expect at this time of year but a few returning lapwings, a single redshank and on Saturday a flock of 46 non-breeding black tailed godwits on Townend, this bird was on Marshland on Friday. The return wader passage usually starts about the 10th June - so about 14 days to go then for Autumn!
At times though it seems like winter has not even finished yet with odd sightings recently of two male teal, two wigeon and in fields near the reserve this summer plumaged fieldfare! Crazy, I had to do a double take to check I hadn't miss identified the bird.
But it is of course summer and this morning I was watching two grasshopper warblers chasing each other around and plenty of sedge warblers and whitethroats. Plenty of reed warblers in the reedbed but with this cold they are being a bit shy. The Cettis warbler is still singing well up at Ousefleet and over the weekend there were two sighting of cuckoo. Chiffchaffs, willow warblers and blackcaps are all feeding young and lesser whitethroat was heard singing in the car park on Saturday.
Other odds and sods include up to three little egrets, three barn owls on Sunday morning including two together at Xerox, and on the cooler days over 300 swifts plus plenty of swallows and house martins. Lots of tree sparrows rearing young at the moment with the first fledged juv out of the box this morning.
little egret in the little pool in front of Ousefleet hide
I was also really please to see this brood of Blackbirds at the toilet block this morning and this singing robin - sometimes the common species can give as much pleasure as the rare birds
I'll leave you with a nice early morning shot of the sun as it was rising - here's to a successful breeding season
Posted by Pete Short
Over the last few days migration has been settling down a little and the breeding season is really taking off with black headed gull and avocet chicks hatching, marsh harriers food passing and tree sparrows, meadow pipits, skylarks and reed buntings all feeding young around the fen.
The Montagu's harriers are still around but you have to be patient to see them - special appearances about 5 times a day roughly every 2.5 - 3hrs apart!
Certainly noticeable this morning was a good number of reed warblers in and singing, the sedgies are mostly quiet but the odd unmated male is singing and showing. Plenty of reed buntings showing as they feed young and sing in the milder weather and the Cettis warbler is also still singing and if you are lucky, showing up toward Ousefleet from time to time.
A few waders still passing with 24 ringed plover, a few dunlin and sanderling on last nights tide, and a couple of fly over black tailed godwits, then just single curlew and oystercatcher this morning, but migration has slowed down and the water is just about gone on Ousefleet due to the lack of rain and tides in April.
Other interesting sightings have included a very late migrant Jay, peregrine, hobby, little egrets and the bitterns seem to be showing pretty well on most days..............
Lets hope this blog publishes! I wrote one yesterday and it wiped it completely
Here's a few of my better photo's from the last few days of roe deer, water vole, fox and hare which have been particularly good out on Ousefleet.
Freddy the water vole chomping on a nettle leaf
Roe deer on Ousefleet
A curious young buck
A young hare on the track
A much older male roe deer with impressive antlers
I'll finish with another one of Freddy and his nettle breakfast
The good run of records certainly continued over the weekend after the bee-eaters on Friday which were our second reserve record closely followed on Saturday by a reserve first in the form of a hawfinch which was spotted flying south! And they say good things come in three's and this was certainly correct on Sunday with a record of a flyover raven, also only the second reserve record. The hawfinch takes the reserve bird list up to 280 species, not bad for a site that is 45 miles inland!
Of course there is also the Montagu's harriers on offer too although you certainly have to be a bit more patient at the moment as they generally only show about once every two and a half hours when the males come in from feeding out on the arable.
Male Monts being harassed by a crow - you can see how small he is!
Still plenty of marsh harrier and avocet action though to keep you occupied while you wait. I was however a bit surprised to see a peregrine take an avocet chick out of the nest today, hardly what you would call a main meal for king of the raptors.
Bitterns have been particularly obliging over the last few days with one dropping right in front of reception this morning to feed in Xerox lagoon. Here's another picture of the two I was watching chasing each other at the weekend.
A few black headed gulls are now starting to hatch out on Marshland lagoon, I think this chick is copying its parent already but needs to grow a bit before becoming a bit more intimidating.
Still a few waders passing through although my nemesis the peregrine seems to enjoy chasing them off Ousefleet just as I sit down to watch them on high tide! But reasonable numbers of ringed plover and dunlin with a nice summer plumaged sanderling this morning part of a much better movement this year. Also a lone lapwing and redshank and still plenty of time for the waders to move when these strong North Westerly's abate.
Strange wader - probably a late moulting Alpina race dunlin?!? I've been mulling over this one but I think I have to come to the conclusion that its just another 'odd' dunlin, question is how many odd dunlins are out there in the world!
A couple of arctic terns and a common seen recently but it is a poor year for tern passage at the moment, other highlights include up to four little egrets, and hobby. The warblers are very quiet at the moment, in part because its blinking freezing but also because they are settling down on eggs.
Arctic tern at Ousefleet
Little egrets at Singleton
Not a boom to be heard at first light this morning on the reserve as I was on species protection duties, then about 5 o'clock I spotted high in the sky two distant bitterns, over the next hour they chased and chased each other around the reedbed. I think that its probably a male and female as there was no obvious aggression, and its probable that he was trying to force her to mate with him. At one point they even flew over the hide at Singleton.
This could be either a good or bad sign of course, it may mean the female has failed on her first nesting attempt and is going to relay, or it could be a new female that has come in to join our existing ones. Judging by the long chase I feel that she is a new bird, possibly even a continental migrant who he is trying to get to join his harem (male bitterns can mate with up to 5 females! but don't help raise the young).
Yesterday the bitterns were quite active in the day too so now's a good time to visit, watch for the Monty's and maybe get some good views of the bittern
As it was before first light then the photo's I took are a little dark, but all the same I thought I'd share them with you.
The amazing spring continues with a text from a friend to say that they have just had two bee-eaters fly past the reserve going down the river Ouse! These are the first records for years and just add to the recent run of amazing bird records for April and May. This is a superb record, I'm just a bit gutted as I'd just returned from the reserve after doing a bit of monitoring!
Also today the male bittern did a full length fly past all the hides from Xerox to Singleton in the mid afternoon, the Montagu's harriers have also show well for most of the day, Avocets are hatching young, plenty of marsh harrier action, summer plumaged spotted redshank, and wheatear.
What a day and proving a point that it is never far from quiet!
Also a quick update on the Wing tagged marsh harrier seen on Thursday Morning - it was ringed as a chick last summer in Norfolk at Holkham Estate, this is the first time this bird has been reported since!
A few pictures of the Avocet chicks.
Sometimes when you are walking around the reserve you just bump into the unexpected, last night it was Freddy the water vole who I spotted chomping on a juicy bit of stinging nettle leaf next to the path! Keeping nice and quiet I whipped out my camera and got a few choice pictures of one of my favourite little reserve characters some of which were extreme close ups! Great to see his teeth and front paws with their long claws, and good to see water vole so close and for so long, you just never know your luck!
Strike a pose!
A bit more luck this morning too with hare's aplenty, roe deer and this young fox (possibly from the litter at townend last year?) that caught and chomped a field vole, watch out Freddy!
I'd had a bit of a suspicion that mid week's weather pattern might see a little bit of wader movement starting again after the North westerly influence had abated, thankfully this has proved to be spot on with yesterday seeing the arrival of a splendiferous Temmink's stint. At times rather distant out from Ousefleet hide it was still a very welcome addition to the years wader tally with it now standing at 26 species. A nice supporting cast too with 5 black tailed godwits, 17 dunlin, 14 ringed plover, 100+ avocets, sanderling, turnstone, 4 ruff, 6 oystercatchers (west), 2 little ringed plovers and a superb full summer plumaged dusky (spotted) redshank. What has been really interesting is that it seems when the ringed plover are passing through in numbers it really pulls in the more unusual waders, long may the passage continue but with the immanent return to the dreaded North westerly I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts! Whens high tide today - I need to find a grey plover, they are in very short supply this year for some reason!
Spotted redshank from this morning at Xerox
And a very very very distant shot of a temmink's stint, its just to the right of the ringed plover!! One for the hard core birders.
The montagu's harriers have been pretty active over the last two days which I'm not really sure if its a good or bad thing, only time will tell. If its not positive then they move on fairly quickly so if you want to see them then you may need to come in the next couple of days. Here's some fairly distant shots I managed the other morning.
Other birds of prey still in evidence with hobby still showing occasionally, loads of marsh harriers and today a distinct 'whiff' of passage with buzzard over high and a wing tagged female marsh harrier from the Norfolk population which is new in. The barn owls are still showing on an evening if the weather is good.
A couple of marsh harriers having a tussle
Yesterday there was a good passage (for us anyway) of 3 wheatear and 2 whinchat. The warblers are not singing quite as much as they were, in part due to the cold but also because they are getting down to nesting, however still singing lesser whitethroat this morning, plenty of whitethroats and still blackcap, chiffchaff, reed, sedge and willow warbler. At least one Cetti's still singing
A nice meadow pipit out on the Marsh as I was inspecting the electric fencing
Whitethroat at Ousefleet
Other birds of note include a couple of little egrets, a reasonable number of yellow wagtails (especially along the road next to the reserve), and the usual duck and grebes including pochard, gadwall, shoveler and great crested grebe. Keep a look out for the stock doves at Ousefleet, there has been up to 5 and also the tree sparrows at the feeders
Male tufted duck
Our lovely hare's are again showing well, this young one seemed to think it was hidden from me. Also roe deer and fox have both been amazing, particularly the fox that keeps trying to raid the crows food stash at Ousefleet.
Yesterday evening I was on species protection duty, just making sure that the reserve's breeding birds were safe and sound, what I didn't quite expect was the hour plus long view of a superb male barn owl that was hunting around the edge of Xerox lagoon. What a pleasure to watch this ghostly hunter and I had to eventually drag myself away to make my way to lock up the reserve!
here's a few pictures - not the best as it was 'half light' but the last one showing the added bonus of a meeting between my favorite twin roe deer and Mr Tyto
We're setting up an emergency fund that we can use to get our reserves back into shape and repair the damage caused. Please help us rebuild from the worst storm in 60 years.
Grid reference: SE8423 (+2km)
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