Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Quiet Times

It's been a struggle just lately to find anything worthwhile to comment on, apart from the weather which continues in it's topsy-turvy style - last week hot, sunny and humid and this week heavy grey skies and chilly N. winds. It does seem however, that the dryness of the ground appears to be settling into a prolonged spell, supported by Met. Office forecasts, not really what anybody trying to grow crops needs. Having said that, so far on the reserve the cattle have struggled to make any great impression on the grass levels and counting hatched and fledging wader chicks has been pretty difficult as they regularly disappear among the taller areas of grass and sedge.
Considering how ideal the conditions on the reserve were after the mild, wet winter, we were hopeful of a really good breeding season for Lapwings this year but with one final count yet to do, the totals of both breeding pairs and fledged young are not exceptional. The heady days of 2010's 81 breeding pairs of Lapwings seem far away at the moment, despite improvements to the reserve making it seem pretty much ideal for them. Over the last two years they also appear to have also changed their preference of breeding site, almost ignoring the western half of the reserve to favour the eastern half, which is hard to figure out. The western half consists of previously well favoured breeding areas of flat, short grazed fields containing numerous rills of shallow water with muddy fringes, ideal for providing insects for growing chicks. The now favoured eastern half of the reserve consists of the Flood field, which begins the breeding season with large areas of standing water or water-logged grass and sedge, and one or two other part-flooded fields, there has to be a reason there somewhere.
Redshanks on the other hand, are doing really well and this year has seen a continuation of the upward rise in numbers of breeding pairs, and fairly spread throughout the reserve.

The latest breeding discovery was also very satisfying because we thought that we had lost them this year, the Barn Owls have been successful, or perhaps that should be Barn Owl. They have nested on the reserve pretty much continuously for the last twenty-odd years but during this last winter they first of all disappeared and then eventually, only one has been seen, never two at times as is the norm. That has remained the case on an almost daily basis but an inspection of the nest box last week found three almost fledged chicks, which were rung. So we remain a bit mystified, why have we never seen a second bird.

Lastly, the Mute Swans, as they do each year, have provided us with the usual and delightful sight of their cygnets in the early summer sun.


  1. Happy for you about the barn owls' successful breeding this year. Always good to see the swans and their young. Quiet spells are nice.

  2. Thanks Wilma, yes we were well pleased to find the owl chicks. After a winter of storms and flooding and a busy breeding season, yes, a quiet spell isn't a bad thing.

  3. Great news about the Barn Owls and the Redshanks Derek. Seems Lapwing numbers are down in most places,

  4. The Lapwings are still doing very well at Elmley Mike.

  5. Derek, I was around your patch a bit earlier in the year and found a Barn Owl roosting in the big barn at Muswell Manor. Could this be your missing Owl?