6th April

I've forgotten what an exciting time of year this is! Present global events not withstanding, from a point of view of nature, it's just getting on with things and it's always exciting to see what new species for the year turns up each day. I've been visiting the Meadow more or less on a daily basis though I tend to go very early at the weekend to avoid the greater crowds that are drawn to an open space like this. 

I've noticed a very dramatic drop in duck numbers on the floods just in the last week. This is of course only to be expected but it's always such a shock when we go from many hundreds of overwinter duck suddenly to sub 50 in total. This does of course make the whole process of sifting through the birds easier and it's getting much quicker to check out what is about on my daily visits.

As duck numbers decrease so wader numbers increase or at least change on a daily basis. We've been getting more BLACK-TAILED GODWITS coming through and have had two or three on the floods most days. There have still been a few REDSHANK about: the peak count the other day was 8 birds though they soon moved on. The OYSTERCATCHERS have been coming and going with up to 3 birds about most days. Our GOLDEN PLOVER flock has been with us all week with numbers steady at around 150 - they are starting to look very smart in the summer plumage now. Today there was another LITTLE RINGED PLOVER (our sixth I believe) at the southern end of the floods, accompanied by the first spring passage DUNLIN of the season. We should soon start to get both Dunlin and Ringed Plover coming through - they often seem to travel together.

The first spring passage Dunlin...

...and another Little Ringed Plover

I haven't really mentioned the flood passerines much but there have been a notable number of Meadow Pipits about, particularly about a week ago though numbers seem to have dropped dramatically of late. There are still Pied Wagtails about and today we had our first two male YELLOW WAGTAILS of the season: looking very smart in their bright yellow plumage against the dull brown of the drying mud.

The first Yellow Wagtail of the year

A Meadow Pipit - soon to head off to find somewhere to breed

In terms of larger birds as the floods shrink dramatically so the Herons and Egrets are moving in and there have been a couple of regular LITTLE EGRETS about of late.

On Sunday my early morning visit found the floods almost completely deserted so I ventured into Burgess Field to see if I could find a singing WILLOW WARBLER. I managed to turn one up just south of the Snipe Field and later on Paul Jennings managed two more as well a SEDGE WARBLER. Despite being a common summer visitor, this latter species is surprisingly hard to find on the patch so I am please to have it firmly on the year list so early. 

Looking ahead, my main concern is my usual worry about how quickly we are going to lose the floods. This prolonged dry spell combined with the increasingly hot and sunny weather is eating them up at a rapid rate and whilst they look good at the moment, it won't be long before they will start to shrivel up to something less appealing for a passing wader. In terms of new arrivals the first Garden Warblers have now been seen in the county and we should soon be getting the two Whitethroat species appearing as well as the returning Reed Warblers to the Trap Grounds. There are Cuckoo's to listen out for and we have yet to have a Wheatear on the year list. Swallows and House Martins should be back again soon as well. As I said at the beginning - it's an exciting time of the year!

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