Sometimes, it’s very easy to get caught up with paperwork in the office, and lose track of what is happening down the reserve. Luckily, there are several jobs that do get me out and about, mainly volunteer work parties (what a lovely day we have planned this Thursday...!), bird surveys and tree safety surveys!
Tree safety surveys involve walking the edges of all of the woodland on the reserve, making sure all the trees are healthy and sturdy, and hopefully not likely to fall down unless there are any really exceptional weather conditions. This generally gives me a good excuse to go poking around in all the bits of the reserve that we rarely go to. Suzanne, our administrator, came along on one of the visits, when we decided to look at the trees at the far western end of the reserve. On our way, we bumped into our graziers cheeky-faced ponies, who have been munching their way through the tough sedge in Botany Bay.
Botany Bay ponies by Katherine Puttick
Birdlife was fairly quiet, though we did put up a lovely woodcock from beneath the poplars. A couple of goldcrests and a treecreeper were among a large long-tailed tit flock, and we interrupted the daytime snooze of a barn owl, who was roosting very close to the public footpath!
Thankfully most of the trees we looked at that day were in good condition, with no obvious signs of imminent failure. Only one was tagged for future monitoring; an alder that had a potential weakness between two main trunks.
Tree tagging. What fun! By Suzanne Harwood
We met up with the ponies again on Sunday, during the monthly Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS). This is a national survey organised by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), and involves counting all the waders and wildfowl on a wetland area. New warden Emma, was on hand to assist with this months count. Part of the survey requires us to plod across the grazing marsh in Botany Bay looking for snipe. Usually we get a handful, plus less common jack snipe if we’re lucky. This time, no jack snipe, but we did count 39 common snipe! This is a bit of a record, and though we didn’t have time on Sunday (heavy rain called end of play at 11am!), I’d like to do a full reserve snipe survey soon. Along with water rail, they are probably among the most under-recorded birds on site.
The elusive and under-recorded water rail by Matt Walton
As usual, we found most of the ducks tucked up in small, out of the way pools within areas of willow and grazing marsh. Unfortunately this means they all fly off while you are trying to count them, so you need to be extra good at identifying ducks in flight! Respectable totals of 267 mallards, 53 gadwalls, 46 wigeons, and 165 teal were recorded within the grazing marshes. Up on the washland, the highlights were five little egrets, one great white egret, 153 black-headed gulls, 206 lesser-black backed gulls, 61 mute swans and a bittern. Not a bad days counting!