This blog has been rather neglected over the past few months, due in large part to work commitments taking me away from the area on a regular basis. However, this has not meant a neglect of fieldwork on the farm, which has continued throughout the autumn and winter period. With the spring of 2015 almost upon us here is a short update of the avian comings and goings during the past few months.
Water levels have been raised on the Screed and L-shaped fields for much of the winter but it was only during the second half of the winter that wildfowl began to use the farm with any regularity. Good counts of Wigeon have included up to 160 during February and 79 in March (compared with no sightings in January). Teal numbers have been low all winter with no counts exceeding 17 in the January-March period. A pair of Gadwall showed up in February but have not been seen since, whilst 2 pairs of Shoveler have been present on and off since mid February. A female Scaup has been frequenting one of the Irrigation Ponds during March and is likely to be the same individual that was seen late in 2014. Having been pondering the often erratic nature of wildfowl appearances on the farm during December and January and contrasting them with the more regular presence of flocks of ducks in February and March I wonder if the shooting that takes place across much of The Carrs in December and January discourages ducks from using the farm until this ceases in February.
Lapwings have been using the farm with regularity throughout the winter, with 306 counted on 3rd January, 580 on 16th February and 160 on 4th March. A number of pairs were displaying on the adjacent arable on 17th March, with a loose flock of 16 feeding on L-shaped field on the same day. Hopefully we'll see a more positive breeding season for Lapwings in 2015. Golden Plovers have been typically erratic in their appearances but 200 on 13th February was a good-sized flock. Snipe have been present throughout the winter with some pleasing counts in each month. High counts have included 6 on 26th December, 34 on 22nd January, 7 on 20th February and 23 on 17th March. We hope that once again there will be a breeding attempt by this species in 2015. The only Redshank of the winter appeared on 17th March, and hopefully it may linger and find a partner with which a breeding attempt may be made.
With the regular presence of waders and wildfowl in the latter part of the winter at least two different Peregrines have been seen, whilst other birds of prey have included up to six Buzzards and two Kestrels. Other notable sightings have included a Water Rail at the Duck Pond, a farm-record count of nine Little Grebes on 23rd January and a count of 14 Stock Doves in February. A flock of 12 Bean Geese were seen in December and lingered nearby in the Wykeham Lakes area in January, whilst a passage flock of 61 Pink-footed Geese flew over on 6th January.
With regard to the smaller birds, it is very pleasing to be able to report the reappearance of Willow Tits back on the farm with a sighting of a pair in late January and a single bird showing signs of breeding behaviour on 17th March. Hopefully they will breed successfully. Another notable sighting on 17th March was a flock of 24 Corn Buntings in the south-west corner of North Screed, the first sighting of this species on the farm since 2012. It seems likely that they will disperse to other areas to breed, but we are very pleased to record this species here again. Other less significant winter sightings have included a flock of up to 200 Starlings feeding around the wetlands, the first wintering Meadow Pipits to be recorded here since regular recording began in 2009, with up to six present and a flock of 80 Linnets on 20th February.
With signs of spring now becoming ever more obvious with each passing day, fieldwork will step up a gear on the farm and hopefully there will be plenty to report here on the blog...
Willow Tit near the Duck Pond on 17th March 2015.