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Recent sightings at Old Hall Marshes up to 9th May 2014:
Hobby – two birds seen flying over the reedbed on 30th April and one perched in bushes north of the reedbed on the 6th May
Whimbrel – numbers reached a peak of 100 (minimum) on 25th April but now in small numbers with 10 seen on the 6th May
Cuckoo – two birds regularly heard and seen in the reedbed, and another individual heard around the reserve office
Little stint – single bird seen feeding with a small Dunlin flock south-east of McClure’s Marsh on the 6th May
Swift – approximately 20 birds seen around the reserve on the 6th May
Wheatear – single birds seen including one individual often seen near the coral west of Bale Field
Lapwing – the chicks are easily seen in Bale Field, mostly concentrated around the water bodies
Little tern – small numbers regularly seen around Old Hall Point
Greenshank – single bird in Joyce’s Head Saltings on the 7th May
Ruff – three males were seen lekking (displaying to females) on the 28th April. Single male bird seen on the 6th May in fields east of Bale Field
Spotted redshank – 5 birds in summer plumage on the 6th May
Grasshopper warbler – male can be regularly heard in the reed between Salcott and Bale fields
Yellow wagtail – pair seen in Irongate Field on the 6th May
House Sparrow – a scarce bird for the reserve, with a female near the car park on the 30th April
Teal – six birds still present around Joyce’s Head on the 6th May
Big thank-you to all volunteers who kindly provide us with their bird sightings
Posted by Neil Lincoln
For the first time since 2002 Black-winged stilts have graced the marshes at old hall. The birds stayed for four days from 14th April, with the last sighting on Thursday 17th April. It is presumed that they are the same birds seen at Bowers Marsh RSPB reserve earlier in the month. During their stay breeding activity was observed, however it was always unlikely that the pair would stay to nest at the reserve as there has only been seven nesting attempts in the UK, with the last in Cheshire in 2008. Their normal breeding grounds are in mainland Europe.
Black-winged stilt showing off its extra long legs that represent 60% of the bird’s height - Steve Knell (rspb-images.com)
Garganey – a pair at Joyce’s Head on the 14th April and still present on the 18th April in Irongate Field. Single drake also present on the 14th April
Garganey are occasional breeders at old hall marshes - Steve Round (rspb-images.com)
Black-winged stilt – a pair last seen on the 17th April showing signs of breeding activity
Whimbrel – numbers starting to build up with at least 41 on the 23rd April and 45 on the 21st April mostly seen in Flying Field
Long-tailed duck – late wintering female regularly seen in Salcott Channel
Mediterranean gulls – small numbers regularly seen flying over Pennyhole Bottom
Wheatear – single male on seaward side of sea wall east of the reserve on the 23rd April
Arctic tern – pair flying circuits over fields south of Pennyhole Bottom on the 24th April
Sandwich tern – single bird flying South-east of PennyHole Fleet on the 22nd April
Little tern –first sighting this year with 2 birds fishing in Salcott Channel on the 23rd April
Watch out Little Terns about! - Chris Gibson
Greenshank – single bird in Salcott Channel on the 21st April
Ruff – 8 birds seen on 19th and 5 on 21st and 23rd April in Bale Field
Spotted redshank – small numbers seen with a maximum of 20 on the 15th April
Common sandpiper – single bird north of McClure’s Marsh on the 23rd April
Green sandpiper – single bird in Irongate on the 17th and 21st April
Grasshopper warbler – male reeling and showing well in the reed between Salcott and Bale fields from the 17th to the 23rd April
Yellow wagtail – single bird east of Bale Field on the 14th April and 3 on the 19th April
Little owl – bird seen in line of trees running west from farm building on the 18th and 19th April
Finally a big thank-you to all the old hall marshes volunteers who kindly provide us with their bird sightings.
The reserve has seen more migrants and summer visitors arriving this week with lesser whitethroat, willow warbler, sand martin, whimbrel and wheatear all being seen for the first time this year. The reserve is a great site for seeing whimbrel as numbers can build up to 200 during the spring migration.
Mediterranean gulls have also been seen in good numbers and are best looked for over Pennyhole Bottom where they can be seen hawking insects. `Med` gulls look similar to the more common black-headed gulls but are slightly bigger and in breeding plumage have a blood red bill that contrasts sharply against a black head. The black extends further down the neck than on black-headed gulls which has a more chocolate-brown coloured head. The easiest way to identify `Med` gulls can be by their call, a distinctive enthusiastic `yow` sound often made in flight. The British population is concentrated along the east and south coasts with breeding birds nesting in black-headed gull colonies at coastal wetlands.
Mediterranean gulls - Roger Tidman (rspb-images.com)
Marsh harrier – 12 birds over the reedbed on the 9th April with sky-dancing seen throughout the week
Sand martin – 1 bird flying over on the 9th April
Green sandpiper – single on the 6th April near Joyce’s Head and 2 in the field south of Pennyhole Fleet on the 9th April
Long-tailed duck – female regularly seen in Salcott Channel
Wheatear – singles on the 9th, 10th and 11th April
Mediterranean gulls – at least 3 hawking insects over Pennyhole Bottom on the 10th April
Brent geese – numbers now much reduced with just 29 seen on the 10th April
Pintail – single drake at the Joyce’s Head flood on the 10th April
Red-breasted merganser – 7 in Salcott Channel on the 10th April
Shag – adult perched on a yellow marker post off Eastern Quarter Spit on the 10th April
Avocet – 90 seen across the reserve
Ruff – 5 on Joyce’s Head on the 10th April and 7 in field south of Pennyhole Fleet
Whimbrel – 2 in Salcott channel and 3 in mouth of North Channel on the 10th April
Whimbrel in flight
Spotted redshank – 12 on the 10th April with 10 on the Joyce’s Head flood
Lesser whitethroat – 1 singing briefly west of Flying field in hedgerow on the 10th April
Common whitethroat – 1 singing near the car park on the 10th April and 11th April
Willow warbler – single males seen on the 10th April west of Bale Field and on the 11th April in Salcott Field
This week has seen a return to warm, sunny weather with temperatures peaking at 19°C (66°F) on the 1st April. This has heralded the arrival of many spring migrants with a large influx of blackcaps overnight on the 31st and a sedge warbler singing on the 3rd. Other arrivals have included yellow wagtail, green sandpiper and a swallow flying north at Eastern Quarter Spit.
The milder temperatures have also seen many lapwings starting to nest around the reserve, with many mobbing marsh harriers who get too close.
Swallow - one flew north at Eastern Quarter Spit on the 3rd
Blackcap – Large influx of birds on the 31st with 1 singing in the copse on the 1st
Sedge warbler – early bird singing in the Crescent on the 3rd
Chiffchaffs – small number of birds singing in the copse
Yellow wagtail - 1 male east of Joyces Head on the 2nd
Avocet - 113 spread across the reserve on the 3rd
Ruff – 16 on the 3rd with 12 south of PennyHole Fleet
Bar-tailed godwit - 130 on Joyces Head Saltings on the 3rd
Spotted redshank – 5 scattered across the reserve on the 3rd and 4 on the 1st
Sanderling - 2 on shingle spit at Eastern Quarter Spit on the 3rd
Green sandpiper – single east of Joyces Head on the 2nd
Long-tailed duck – late bird still present in Salcott Channel on the 1st
Pintail - 4 scattered across the reserve on the 3rd
Mediterranean gull – 2 hawking over Joyces Head Saltings on the 1st
Red-breasted mergansers – 11 in Salcott Channel on the 1st
Peregrine – female over on the 3rd
Sightings this week included:
Avocet – A flock of 78 on Tollesbury Fleet on the 17th.
Red Breasted Merganser – 9 individuals recorded around the site.
Eider – A male bird sighted at the eastern end of Great Cob Island on the 17th.
Merlin – a female surveying the pasture from a bush near Eastern Quarters Spit on the 16th.
Bar-Tailed Godwit – 40 on Tollesbury Fleet on the 17th.
Sanderling – 23 counted on Pennyhole Inlet on the 17th.
Turnstone – a flock of 8 birds on Pennyhole Inlet on the 17th.
Dunlin – 76 birds on Great Cob Island on the 17th.
Pied Wagtail – 50 plus birds coming in to roost in the reedbed on the 16th.
Hen Harrier – an adult male flew over the car park and onto the saltings on the 17th.
Ruff – 2 seen in Field 5 on the 17th.
Red Legged Partridge – a pair in the office yard on the 17th.
Spotted Redshank – a group of 14 flying over the western counter wall on the 17th.
Pintail – 2 birds on the rough pasture on the 17th.
Snipe – a group of 4 flushed from the pasture by Joyce’s Head on the 19th.
Marsh Harrier – 7 individuals displaying over the reedbed on the 21st.
Brown Hare – around 8 individuals quite active on the reserve through the week.
Pond Skater – an early individual found on Pennyhole Fleet on the 17th.
Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock butterflies present at the western end of the reserve this week.
A quiet week for bird sightings with the spring migration not yet underway but with many wintering species seen in low numbers. A sure sign that spring is on the way was the finding of a lapwing scrape as early as 12th March. Their nests are referred to as scrapes because the birds make a shallow scrape in mud or sand where they lay three to four eggs.
Further sightings this week include:
Avocet – A flock of 105 on Tollesbury Fleet on the 8th
Red Breasted Merganser – 9 individuals recorded around the site
Brent geese – An approximate total of 1600 birds around the reserve this week
Water Rail – An individual in Crescent field on the 8th
Bar-Tailed Godwit – 48 on Tollesbury Fleet on the 8th
Sanderling – 31 counted on the shingle at Eastern Quarters Spit on the 8th
Skylark – 20 plus birds across the reserve engaging in lengthy display flights
Ruff – 2 seen in Field 5 on the 8th
Great Spotted Woodpecker – a male making the most of the peanuts in the feeder near the office
Peregrine – an individual involved in a prolonged display flight out on Tollesbury Channel
Great Crested Grebe – 21 birds on Eastern Quarters Spit on the 8th
Merlin – A female sitting on the fence by the entrance gates on the 11th
Marsh Harrier – An adult male patrolling close to the office on the 11th
Small Tortoiseshell – a pristine example enjoying the sunshine on the 10th
With spring now officially upon us we can already see the changes in the wildlife and in particular the birds. The skylarks have been out in force all week, singing at full volume and making their presence clearly known, whilst the great-crested grebes are starting to acquire their stunning orange/brown summer plumage. The onset of spring has also triggered the re-emergence of the bees, with the presence of queen bumble bees all be it still rather drowsy from there underground hibernation, a welcome sight around the reserve. We certainly hope to see more good weather to aid this vital species with successful productivity and nesting.
Bumblebee - Steve Austin (rspb-images.com)
Therefore with the onset of spring and hopefully the promise of warmer weather, we could be saying goodbye to our wintering birds here at Old Hall at any moment That includes the three species of divers that have kept us company these past months as the birds return to there respective breeding grounds. It is therefore very exciting that in these final moments of the winter season that a very rare sighting of a wintering curlew sandpiper was made in Bale field on the 3rd of March.
Other recent sightings this week include:
Slavonian grebe – 3 spotted at falling tide, drifting out past the Eastern Quarters Spit (EQS).
Great-crested grebe – 56 counted in total around the reserve, including 43 off the EQS.
Great-northern diver – 1 sighted in the mouth of the North Channel on the 3rd.
Black throated diver – 2 sighted off the Eastern Quarters Spit on the 3rd.
Red throated diver – A single bird recorded mid-estuary on the 3rd.
Brent geese – A recorded total of 1730 birds around the reserve on the 3rd.
Smew – An individual drake spotted at Pennyhole Bottom on the 3rd.
Black-tailed godwit – 570 recorded in Tollesbury Fleet at rising tide on the 3rd.
Spotted redshank – 2 recorded at Joyce’s Fleet on March the 3rd.
Sanderling – 51 counted around the reserve, including 40 seen flying past the EQS.
Ruff – 34 seen in total, including 33 at the seawall via the Eastern Quarters Spit.
Twite – 3 sighted on the 3rd, at the entrance of Field 6 from Joyce’s Head.
Bearded tit – 5 recorded in the reedbed off the eastern counterwall.
Peregrine – An adult male flying over Field 5 on March the 3rd.
Sparrowhawk – A single male spotted in Irongate on the 3rd.
Merlin – A female recorded flying over Field 4/5 on the 3rd.
Marsh harrier – 7 seen in total about the reserve on March the 3rd.
Alan Kell, Residential Volunteer
This week we have been able to enjoy a few days of blissful sunshine in comparison to the very wet and dull weather we’ve become accustomed to in recent months, creating far more enjoyable bird watching conditions. It was on one of these sporadic days, Saturday 22nd, where we are very excited to report that a glossy ibis was recorded flying over the reserve, a very rare sighting here at old hall marshes and the first since 9th May 2011. Prior to that only one previous sighting was recorded here between 1995 and 2006.
No Ibises are regular in the UK, although the glossy ibis can appear on these shores, often as a stray from their usual habitat of southern Europe. This spectacular bird will have found no shortage of company, with Old Hall Marshes currently playing host to a wide variety of wildlife including thousands of birds.
A Glossy Ibis photographed in sunny Cyprus (Michael Gore (rspb-images.com)) The old hall bird was just too quick to photograph!
Further sightings include:
Little grebe – 3 seen on the 24th and 2 on the 26th
Great-crested grebe – 15 on the 21st, 14 including 2 pairs displaying on 24th, and 49 on the 26th
Black-necked grebe – 1 at the Eastern Quarter’s Spit on the 24th
Slavonian grebe – one recorded off the Eastern Quarter’s Spit on the 21st
Great-northern diver – 1 sighted in the mouth of the northern channel on the 21st
Black throated diver – 1 landed mid-estuary on the 21st
Red throated diver – A single bird recorded off the Eastern Quarter’s Spit on the 21st and 26th
Long-tailed duck – Single female swimming in Salcott channel on both the 21st and 26th
Spotted redshank – 2 recorded on the 21st and another individual bird on the 24th
Ringed plover – One at mouth of bay on the 24th
Guillemot – 1 seen in flight off the Eastern Quarter’s Spit on the 21st
Twite – 10 recorded feeding on the 24th and 5 spotted on the 26th
Stonechat – Pair at Pennyhole Fleet on the 24th
Bearded tit – 2 seen at Joyce’s Head and Pennyhole Fleet on the 24th
Hen harrier – A full adult male sighted flying over the reserve on the 26th
Peregrine – 1 on the 24th and a male displaying its flying prowess on the 26th
Brown Hare – 2 seen in Bale field on the 26th
Alan Kell, Residential volunteer
Over the winter period Old Hall marshes has played host to all three of the Divers and this week is no exception. The Great northern diver is the largest of the three and only tends to appear in the UK over winter, with an estimated UK wintering population of 2600 birds. One of this number was sighted this week in the Tollesbury channel. The Black-throated diver contains a smaller UK wintering population of 560 birds, however these do breed in the UK, all be it rarely, with an estimated 190-250 pairs and it is great to see that two have been sighted this week off the East Quarter Spit. The Red-throated diver is the smallest of the three birds and contributes between 1000-1600 pairs to the UK breeding scene, with over 17000 wintering here. Unfortunately though there were no hat-rick of sightings this week, but these have been sighted here this winter, including a flock of over 23 in late January.
Great northern diver in its winter coat at Old Hall Marshes
Further sightings this week include:
Smew – Both a drake and a redhead spotted together on Pennyhole Fleet on 16th.
Bittern – A rare winter sighting on Pennyhole Fleet on February 16th.
Water rail – 3 heard calling from around Pennyhole Fleet on February 16th.
Cetti’s warbler – Individual sighted in the reedbed on 16th and one on 19th along Crescent.
Stonechat – A female sighted near the counterwall on the 16th.
Pied wagtail – A flock of 28 coming in to roost at the reedbed on the 16th.
Marsh harrier – 22 at roost on 16th including 8 males, 5 females, 2 juveniles and 7 immature males.
Hen harrier – A ring-tailed harrier, believed to be a first winter male at roost in reedbed on 16th.
Sparrowhawk – A pair displaying over double hedges on the 19th.
Black-necked grebe – 1 off B8 in Salcott Channel on the 19th.
Great-crested grebe – 46 seen in total around the reserve on the 19th.
Golden plover – 7000+ counted over Field 1/8 on the 19th.
Lapwing – 2118 recorded around the reserve on the 17th.
Bearded Tit – 5 heard around Joyce’s Head on the 17th.
Twite – 8 seen at Joyce’s Head and 2 on Tollesbury Channel on February 17th.
European Eel – Approximately 1 meter long, swimming along the flooded track by Joyces Head.
Grid reference: TL9512 (+2km)
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