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!
Beckingham Marshes is still looking fabulously wet at the moment, with water levels still rising over the reserve, full scrapes and lovely large areas of flooded grassland. All this water is attracting hundreds of birds to the site and makes for quite a spectacle!
Most of our visitors are wildfowl, comprising several species such as wigeon, teal, gadwall, shoveler and mallard. However, we have had a few scarcer visitors in the last couple of weeks too. Mute swans are few and far between at Beckingham, but we have seen a pair on the deeper areas of the wet grassland fields recently. Shelduck too are seen infrequently on site and three yesterday was a nice surprise, viewable from the platform across the wet grassland.
In addition to this, we have also had a couple of firsts for the site – it’s always great to see the reserve developing and attracting more and more great wildlife! The first of the two ‘firsts’ were a pair of pink-footed geese that have made the site their home for the last two weeks. We are used to seeing and hearing groups of them overhead as they move in and out of the country on their migration, but to have some on the ground is great. Our other ‘first’ was a stunning male pintail, seen by one of our volunteer wardens, Simon. Another nice addition to the Beckingham bird list.
It’s a great time on site for plenty of other species too, with 300-400 lapwing frequenting the wet grassland fields, tree sparrows in the hedgerows, skylarks in full voice, grey partridge, snipe, oystercatcher and a very welcome record of a curlew back on site – fingers crossed for the forthcoming breeding season!
Lovely wet areas attracting loads of wildlife at the moment!
Pretty pintail is a great addition to the site's list! Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)
Last week’s task over at Beckingham Marshes was to help our friends at the Willow Works Community Group in the willow garden. The willow garden is doing really well, with our cuttings taken and planted last year, now growing to over 6 feet tall and some of the larger standard willows now ready for pollarding.
Last week’s activity however, was tidying up the living willow tunnels. The two tunnels are fabulous little pieces made from living willow trees, the bendy branches are manipulated into a tunnel shape and woven together to provide the structure. As they grow, they require tidying and further weaving to maintain the tunnel shape and stop unruly growth heading skywards. So we set to work on one of the tunnels, pulling down the stray branches and securing them into the structure.
After a morning’s work, the tunnel looked brilliant and I’m certainly looking forward to seeing it in the summer when in leaf!
One other task last week was to ceremoniously install the first of the Group’s willow labels. There are several types of willow growing in the garden and the Group have had special labels made to identify each type and here is the first label, the famous weeping willow….
The day was followed by soup and coffee in the building – lovely!
Owned and run by our friends at Groundwork, the Old Willow Works building is an excellent asset for the area, providing a snapshot of what life was like in bygone days and of the willow weaving industry that used to thrive on the Marshes around the Trent.