Acorns, bugs and birds

Ready-to-drop acorns, colourful bugs and unusual birds are the theme at Lackford at the moment.

This weekend has been very eventful, with a spotted crake turning up on Jason’s Pool yesterday morning and showing on and off again today. 07:00 to 12:00 seems to be the best time and it is sometimes in the company of a water rail too. Here a young cuckoo, being fed by its reed warbler surrogate parent can sometimes be seen, though Bernard’s Hide is worth checking for this too- the chick is simply enormous and the parent bird needs to gain some height, such as perching on a nearby twig, just to deliver more food into it! The warblers’ whole head can be seen disappearing inside the gape of the chick when it gets fed. Kingfishers have been showing increasingly well lately too, including young birds, and the Slough and Hawker Pool are the best places to check for these. This afternoon we were treated to a brief flyover from a spoonbill, and hobbies are seen on a daily basis patrolling the slough, probably drawn in by the abundance of dragonflies and house martins there. 

Up to 14 little egrets can be seen on the Slough, or on Long Reach, mixed in with many juvenile herons not yet as well marked as the adult birds are. On Friday a brief visit from a black-tailed godwit was a highlight and there are adult great crested grebes dotted about on the larger lakes, especially Hawker Pool where there were six this afternoon, with a further two viewable from Steggall’s. A couple of common terns can still be watched fishing noisily between the Sailing Lake and the Slough too.

Signs of autumn are beginning to show on the reserve, with an abundance of ripening fruit and nuts everywhere- acorns, hazelnuts and the berries of hawthorn, blackthorn, bramble, guelder rose and dogwood adorn the trees despite the recent prolonged dry weather. A forest bug was seen this afternoon, and at this time of year their diet mainly consists of overripe fruit. The berries are likely also to be enjoyed by butterflies such as red admiral and peacock, and birds such as blackcap and song thrush. Also on the wing are plenty of brown hawker, migrant hawker and a few ruddy darter. 

A great way to get closer to the bugs on the reserve, such as our shield bugs and beetles, is to borrow a bug hunting kit from the Centre to use during your visit- the magnifying glass in the top of the pot is great for getting a closer look at the smaller creepy crawlies!

Other signs of late summer behaviour include the tit parties that have begun roaming the hedgerows- these are mixed flocks of blue, great, coal and marsh tits, sometimes with added nuthatch, goldcrest and treecreeper bringing up the rear! Long-tailed tits do a similar thing and can be seen now in extended family groups, all searching for insect food together. So at the moment there’s plenty to see on the reserve- and this transition period between the seasons is a fascinating time to see a variety of wildlife. We hope to see you soon!