As we reach the end of February, thoughts turn hopefully towards spring and on any visit to the farm at this point in the winter I hope to see some signs of the forthcoming breeding season. A visit on Saturday was most enjoyable with the expected mix of winter and some of those hoped for signs of breeding activity beginning.
The winter season was represented by the continued presence of the flock of Whooper Swans. They have been feeding out on the fields to the west of the farm and coming to the floods to bathe and roost for six weeks or so now. It is likely that they will be on their way north, within the next two or three weeks, so these are the last opportunities to savour their presence here. Winter ducks have been thin on the ground recently with just the odd Wigeon, a few Teal and Tufted Ducks on the Irrigation Ponds. Lapwings have been present on and off, with a Dunlin associating with them again and a nice flock of Golden Plover in the area and seen flying over, but not actually using the fields.
Spring migrants have been represented by a marked increase in Snipe on the Screed fields. It is now becoming a familiar pattern that there are relatively few Snipe around in the mid-winter period, but numbers increase in February and March as birds use the farm as they migrate to breeding grounds elsewhere. When I last updated the blog I reported the presence of five Snipe. These increased to 18 a few days later and then on Saturday an impressive 31 were counted. Just a single Jack Snipe was seen, although there were five earlier in the month. Woodcock have been fairly thin on the ground this winter, so a count of five on Saturday is suggestive of movement taking place. A Curlew was displaying and a Shelduck has been around a couple of weeks or so now, both welcome indications that spring is not too far away.
In the Duck Pond reed beds a Water Rail remains, whilst a returning pair of Coots have appeared on the Irrigation Pond. Coot is definitely a breeding season visitor to the farm, with winter records lacking. A couple of singing male Reed Buntings were also eagerly setting up their territories.
A short wander in the woodlands failed to find the hoped for Willow Tits - hopefully they are just keeping a low profile - but drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker and vocal activity from Great and Blue Tits, Wren, Treecreeper and Goldcrest were all further indications of spring being not to far away now. So, all we need now is for the weather to follow the birds lead and warm up a bit!