What a superb day's weather we had today, clear blue skies and an almost warm sun, despite being a tad breezy on the marsh, today could of easily been one from March or April. Last night in the garden I found a Common Newt making its way across the lawn and today there was a Great Tit loudly "teaching" to all and sundry - is it really only mid-December?
Last Friday we should of completed the Dec WEBS count but the weather defeated us and so early this morning two of carried out a belated count on the reserve. I don't have the count for Shellness Point yet but mine covering birds on the mudflats in front of the reserve saltings and along to the saltings below Harty church were encouraging. The two stand out counts were 210 Avocet and 1050 Lapwing. 800 of the Lapwing were on the saltings below Harty Church and it is a welcome back to good numbers of Lapwing, they have been in very low numbers through the continuing drought. A few other noteable counts were 180 Grey Plover, 60 Redshank and 100 Shelduck. One absentee in recent months has been Coots. Normally at this time of the year we would see numbers building towards the 100 mark but since the drought set in during late summer they have pretty much disappeared and I can't recall when I last saw any.
On my back round the boundary hedging of the reserve I was also pleased to come across 12 Long-tailed Tits, 2 Blue Tits, 16 Blackbird, 40 Reed Bunting, 26 Goldfinch.
Back at the reserve barn at 10.15 it was obviously to good a morning to waste and so I briefly nipped home to collect Ellie the puppy (only 15 mins each way) and set off again across part of the reserve. I'd left Ellie at home because I assumed that a long walk such as the WEBS would be too much for her little legs but I think I worried unduly, she ran for ages on that second walk of the day. Here below she is in the reserve barn helping Midge sniff out any mice or rats and then out on the marsh itself.
Despite looking beautifully green and muddy, the overall level of water on the reserve remains very low and I'll be surprised if we achieve anywhere near normal water levels this winter. The scrapes in the field that we know as "The Flood" (its in front of the Sea wall Hide), we re-dug this summer and they still remain pretty much dry and so I decided to pump what water that we could spare, onto them this morning. The Pumphouse pumps water from the ditches alongside The Flood onto the scrapes and at the moment that means lowing the ditches from just a foot or so deep to around six inches. However once we can get the scrapes reasonably wet then any further rains do at least add to the depth of water in the scrape rather than simply soaking into the soil. The pumphouse has the ability to pump the water in three different directions by opening/shutting various valves.
This is the main scrape before we started pumping.
And after we had been pumping for a short while.
All in all a splendid morning's work on the reserve and a real treat to be able to get out in such enjoyable weather, we've had the Shortest Day, soon all this Christmas rubbish will be out of the way and we can start dreaming of breeding birds, swallows and butterflies - can't wait!!