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Reserves by name
Each season brings a different experience at our nature reserves. In spring, the air is filled with birdsong as they compete to establish territories and attract a mate. In summer, look out for young birds making their first venture into the outside world. Autumn brings large movements of migrating birds - some heading south to a warmer climate, others seeking refuge in the UK from the cold Arctic winter. In winter, look out for large flocks of birds gathering to feed, or flying at dusk to form large roosts to keep warm.
Spring is alive with the sounds and sights of many breeding birds. Our favourites include the sky-diving lapwings and herons with their precarious nests in the trees. The highlight amongst the many warblers is undoubtely the grasshopper warbler with its distinctive 'reeling' song. Non-breeding regular visitors include black-tailed godwits and spotted redshanks, which pass through on their way north.
As the weather hots up, so does the wildlife action. Summer visitors include the aerobatic hobby and menacing marsh harrier. Ducklings are well on their way and are actively feeding. Many wildflowers come into their own, such as marsh orchids and fleabane, while marsh marigolds bloom. A quiet and patient watcher may catch a glimpse of a water vole as it plops underwater. Insect stars include wall brown butterflies. Stick around until dusk and see the Daubenton's and pipistrelle bats feasting on flying insects.
Autumn sees the action slow down as nature gets ready for winter. The reserve, however, remains well-watched as many scarce migrant birds have been seen in previous years, including little stints, green, curlew and wood sandpipers. Little egret numbers are at their highest now as the chicks have fledged and large roosts make it worthwhile being here just before dusk. Also, small numbers of wild geese begin to arrive.
The whole area becomes a winter wildlife wonderland. Believe it or not, many of our feathered friends choose to spend their winter here. Probably the most spectacular (and noisy) are the thrushes and starlings that have come from the continent to feast upon our unfrozen farmland. Hen harriers spend their winter out on the saltmarsh but will regularly hunt the pools and wetland here. Both whooper and Bewick's swans over-winter on the estuary and occasionally drop in for a feed or even to spend the night. Frozen days are the best time to see the usually shy water rail, as it is forced to leave the cover of vegetation to find somewhere to feed.
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