Sunday, 10 February 2013
The usual three of us carried out the reserve WEBS count yesterday morning and in good spells of sunshine it was almost warm as I walked round the main marsh part of the reserve that is my section to count. For the first time for a year, it was also nice to be able to sit in the comfort of the sea wall hide and count the large number of birds that were spending the high tide period either feeding or roosting in the "Flood field" in front of the hide.
A little way past the hide is the last field at the eastern end of the reserve, we know it as Compartment 55. It lies alongside the field of harvested maize and because of its part flooded nature it has been recently attracting large numbers of Brent Geese, Shelducks and gulls. Many of these birds feed on the spilled maize next door and then come onto the reserve for a wash and brush up in the wet areas. Above you can see some of the Shelducks and gulls that were spread across it.
To the left of Comp.55 is Comp. 54, which also includes the top end of the "S Bend Ditch," and here there were Whitefronted, Barnacle and Greylag Geese, all sharing the water with Wigeon, Mallard, Teal, Pintail and Shoveler ducks. In the background you can see the top of the new, lower, Tower Hide peeping over the salt-working mound. Incidentally, on Friday afternoon a black rabbit was seen on top of this mound, a really heartening sighting. Rabbits of this naturally occurring colour type used to be widespread across the reserve, but like their normal coloured cousins, they have virtually disappeared on the reserve in recent years. Below you can see more Shelducks and Brent Geese beginning to drop in, behind them is the brown stubble of the maize field.
The Brent Geese were very mobile for a while with several flocks along the reserve being scared up by regular over-flights by a low flying light aircraft. Eventually they all combined into one flock in and around Comp. 55, where a single Black Brant was eventually located. A large flock of Carrion Crows also moved between the geese and among them I also picked out the single Hooded Crow that has been around for a couple of weeks. A single Hoodie has been a feature on and around the reserve for several winters now, whether its always the same bird is open to question but its strange that only the one bird bothers to travel south each year. Hardly a mega-rarity, its only a bloody crow after all, but combined with the Black Brant it added a bit of "colour" to yesterday's report.
While standing there looking at Brents and assorted wildfowl, I suddenly found myself instinctively ducking as I seemed to be surrounded by the loud rushing noise of hundreds of birds. Looking up, I was just in time to see a large flock of Starlings plunging downwards in a tight ball of birds that suddenly exploded outwards as a Peregrine Falcon dropped through them like a thunderbolt. The falcon was unsuccessful and the Starlings sped off across the reserve, while the Pergrine briefly circled above me, perhaps watching the dogs and then disappeared off at speed across the maize fields. With several thousand Wood Pigeons feeding on the maize there the Peregrine once again caused a major panic as it no doubt struggled to pick exactly the right one for dinner from such a choice.
There were certainly a lot of birds about during the count and mine alone out of the three of us was very encouraging after the quiet winter. Highlights were as following:-
5 G C Grebe and 110 Shelduck on The Swale.
50 Greylag Geese, 32 White-fronted Geese, 800 Brent Geese, 5 Barnacle Geese, 180 Shelduck, 14 Pintail, 40 Teal, 70 Mallard, 40 Wigeon, 24 Shoveler, 110 Coot, 20 Avocet, 120 Golden Plover, 1000 Lapwing, 90 Grey Plover, 200 Curlew, 700 Dunlin, 30 Redshank, 240 BH Gull, 110 Herring Gull.
The large number of Dunlin using the Flood Field as a high tide roost is an unusual but welcome sight and duck numbers were down but at high tide many fly out to The Swale and drift up and down on the tide. It was a busy morning's count but very enjoyable after the relative boredom of the previous months on the reserve this winter. Now we just need some warm and sunny weather.