Gold is a running theme through todays blog post. With a lack of strong winds and rain the trees have retained their leaves longer than usual and the reserve is still looking golden! This strange weather has meant some flowers are kicking back at the season by carrying on flowering. No one has told the birds foot trefoil or borage to stop for the year! These later flowers will be a life line for insects that are still flying in the lingering warmer weather.
Birds foot trefoil and borage (K.Thorpe)
We’ve had lots of redwings on the reserve this week. I can’t go past a berry bush without two or three erupting out. They are ever so flighty, and make such a clatter as they fly away alerting everything to your presence! The berry crop looks to be decent this year, which may, attract in the most sought after winter nomad, the waxwing. Their appearance in the UK is dependent on factors including if they have had a good breeding season and how numerous the food is on their continental wintering grounds. If there are lots of birds and not enough winter food then they keep moving until they find enough which results in Britain have waxwings. There have been a trickle of reports already this year and we had 3 flying over (but didn’t stop) last Monday – must be better berries somewhere else!
Redwing (Claire Workman)
Goldcrests are just the best little birds to watch and seem to be behind every leaf along the woodland trail! Their high pitched calls ring out from the canopy as they hover in front of a sycamore leaf picking off spiders and other creepy crawlies. Our resident birds are boosted by migrants from northern and eastern Europe. They weigh only 6g and are capable of flying 1000’s miles to spend the winter in milder climes. This seems unbelievable and indeed in folklore they are referred to as woodcock pilots, as it was thought they were too tiny to cross the sea and hitched rides on the backs of woodcocks which are migrating to this country at the same time! What a wonderful image of a goldcrest jockey with a woodcock steed!
Goldcrest (Ben Andrews rspb-images.com)
Out on the wetlands, golden plover numbers fluctuate from day to day, with a recent high of about 250+. Mixed in with the lapwings hidden among the redshank plants they can be tricky to pick out. When a sparrowhawk or peregrine flies through then their nervous nature makes them take to the skies and shows there whereabouts. It’s then you realise the 20 you thought you were watching was in fact 120! Other waders have included plenty of hiding snipe and up to 6 jack snipe have been seen whilst working on the North pit, plus dunlin and green sandpipers – the main movement of waders at Middleton tends to be April/May and then again July-September. It’ll be quiet on the wader front a while now. Ducks numbers haven’t increased much in recent weeks but they are coming into their breeding plumage and looking fine. Shoveler, wigeon, gadwall and pochard are all regular on the wetlands displaying to potential mates. We have had up to 3 pintail on Jubilee, including one which stayed with us whilst we were working on there. Unperturbed by the brushcutters! Goldeneye are turning up now, I had my first of the autumn on the water ski lake, which is next to Dosthill.
It is that time of year now that roosts are starting to build up. The little egrets continue to build in number with the totals in the willows on the east of Jubilee between 25-35. They usually switch to roost in the heronry so it’ll be interesting to see if they do this and when. The starlings are starting to build in number with 3000+ swirling above Fishers Mill. In the past we have had over 10000 come to roost and every year seems to be different. They also move where they roost. Sometimes it’s Fishers Mill, other times it can be one of the silt ponds. When they roost in the silt pond it’s such a spectacle as they are really close and to hear the whoosh of wings and crack of reeds as they dive into the reedbed is pretty cool! On occasion whilst watching the starlings roosting, a bittern will also fly into the reedbed. Last night one was picked out on the south side of the reedbed pool. Hopefully this bird will spend the Winter with us and maybe be joined by birds from the continent which migrate here to escape colder and frozen conditions
Atmospheric morning on Fishers Mill (K.Thorpe)