Another wader and wildfowl breeding season is drawing to its conclusion over at Beckingham at the moment and it’s looking like another success!
Our lapwing numbers have gone up once again, with a total of 16 pairs attempting to breed on site in 2018. This is up by 2 from last year. So far 14 young have fledged and it’s great to see them flying around. There are still more younger chicks around though, so hopefully our final total will increase.
Oystercatcher have bred on site successfully for the first time this year, after failed attempts for the last two years. They have one well grown chick at the moment that looks as if it’s only a few days off fledging, so fingers crossed for this little one!
It is redshank however, that have been most impressive this year. 3 pairs were present at the beginning of the breeding season, with 2 going on to make breeding attempts. A survey last week revealed 3 fledged young and a further 2 only a few days behind them. We are thrilled with this and it’s certainly the most successful this species has ever been on site.
Redshank. Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
Shoveler have done very well too, with at least 5 broods of well grown young on site at the moment – up from 2-3 successful pairs last year. We have also added a new breeding species to the reserve list….shelduck. Pairs of shelduck have been present for the last few years on site, but we have not been able to confirm breeding until now. Great news!
Shelduck. Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)
The tree sparrow colony is in full swing, with around 110 young fledged from first broods and second broods just hatching at the moment.
Some wildlife highlights from the last few weeks include merlin, peregrine, ruff, barn owl and a stunning common crane that dropped in briefly onto the wet grassland fields – a first for the site. We also found a new plant species for the site - watercress. Our deep ditches are also improving all the time and the aquatic flora at this time of year is impressive!
The wet and cold weather of late will have undoubtedly slowed down some aspects of spring, however we appear to be underway with our breeding wader season over at Beckingham, as we were delighted to discover during the first survey of the year yesterday.
Lapwings are always the most numerous of our waders with an estimated 14 pairs on site from yesterday’s count. This number could go up over the next few weeks, so is by no means our final total, however this already equals the highest number of pairs we have ever had on site and is certainly the highest number so early in the season.
3 pairs of redshank appear to be holding territory and displaying on site. Another species that has already equalled the highest number of pairs ever recorded on site. Redshank first bred successfully at Beckingham in 2016, then again last year, so fingers crossed for them again in 2018.
A curlew was also present yesterday and after their failed attempt for the first time last year, let’s hope 2018 brings them more success.
Other birds present on site yesterday include oystercatcher, shelduck, still 100 wigeon and 30 teal, mute swan, singing skylark and meadow pipits performing their characteristic parachute song flight and a beautiful breeding plumaged black-tailed godwit. This bird is on passage, but what a stunner in their bright orange attire. Recent sightings include a merlin, peregrine, ruff, an impressive 60+ snipe and 100 flyover whooper swans.
How will our lapwings do this year?
It's been another excellent two weeks out on site at Beckingham, with birds and water aplenty! The water levels across the wet grassland fields seem to have risen even more, aided no doubt by the snow melt and the heavy rain we have had in the last couple of weeks. This additional flooding has two positive effects - firstly, it slows the growth of the grass underwater and secondly, it pushes the grazing wigeon even further out into the fields, creating a wider area of nice, nibbled grass for lapwings to nest on. Wigeon numbers are still pretty high, with around 300 birds in residence, as well as the usual mix of other wildfowl species. Pintail numbers are now up to 6, with 3 males and 3 females frequenting field 9.
And speaking of lapwings, the wintering flock has now mostly dispersed and we are starting to see the first signs of the forthcoming breeding season. Pairs seem to be forming and the first display flights are taking place over suitable nesting habitat. The return of oystercatcher to the site is also a sign of spring. This species has attempted nesting for the last two years, fingers crossed for their first successful year in 2018. Shelduck are still present, skylarks are singing and a little covey of grey partridge were vocal yesterday afternoon.
In our last blog, I was talking about pintail and pink-footed geese adding to the site's total list of bird species recorded. Little did I expect another 'first' this week too! Whilst on our way to complete a spot of fencing yesterday morning, we were surprised to see a barnacle goose. This is a presumed wild bird, with the possibility of the recent weather pushing it over from wintering grounds in the Netherlands. 3 birds were seen at Langford last week, so this appears to be a fourth in the area.
Looking very damp indeed!