This past week has seen goldeneye ducks displaying enthusiastically on the Sailing Lake- males always seem to outnumber the females and it is quite common to find a female being chased (quite slowly!) by two to four males, each of which throws his head backwards to impress her. Other ducks to look for on the Sailing Lake include plenty of wigeon, with a few shoveler, tufted duck and pochard mixed in too. Whilst you are here admiring the ducks, keep an eye on the alder trees above the path next to the Sailing Lake and above Winter hide, as it’s likely there will be siskin feeding on the seeds in the alder cones up there. On the western side of the blue trail you can often hear their budgie-like twittering, which is similar to the calls of goldfinches which they often mix with, and it’s always worth looking out for the odd redpoll in these groups too.
Moving around to the Slough, ducks continue to delight as we have had good numbers of teal and shoveler here- both dabbling ducks that seem to like the shallower nature of the lagoons compared to the deeper water of Sailing Lake and Hawker Pool, favoured by diving ducks like goldeneye and pochard. On Thursday (13th) we had reports of over sixty snipe from Bernard’s Hide, which is a very high number for us and reflects how good the feeding must be at this time of year in the muddy fringes of the pools. Another wader to look out for is lapwing on the islands of the slough. Other birds to watch for here that have been reliable this week are little egret, little grebe, kingfisher and water rail- try Paul’s or Bernard’s Hide for these. If you happen to be around later in the day, do look for barn owl hunting along the scrub at the back of the Slough- a traditional spot for them.
While we are still in the grip of winter and duck numbers are high, another sign of spring has been the increased frequency in sightings of red kite- most days this week one has been seen drifting over the reserve, as they scout out suitable habitat in the local area for feeding and breeding in during the warmer months to come. At the last count there were thought to be 4400 breeding pairs in summer in the UK, and they are currently spreading rapidly back into areas where they were once lost through persecution. Look out for them drifting along, like buzzards, especially on drier, calmer days.
A noticeable hint of spring can be found in our smaller birds with many beginning to sing on the reserve like song thrushes, robin and dunnock.
Lastly, but not least- the bird feeder tree back at the Centre has been very busy lately with an almost constant stream of long-tailed tits gorging themselves on the suet pellets, as well as plenty of blue, great and coal tits. Look a little further back into the reeds and you might well see several reed bunting- these have been very visible lately and we have over 100 flying in to roost in this reedbed in the evenings, with many of these spending the day feeding nearby.