Sunday, 2 April 2017

Migrants returning and songsters singing

A fabulous weekend and a great chance to see how spring was getting on.

The warmth has, at last, brought out the reptiles and I came across my first slow worm of the year.  Then a little way on found a grass snake basking in the warmth, deep in dry grass and short nettles on a south facing bank.

Grass snake
On the way to this site (Natural England's Shapwick Heath) I searched for an overwintering cattle egret that I hoped might still be around.

There's a slightly untidy traditional farm where numerous egrets gather.  Here the grazing cattle stir up insects and worms in a muddy and tightly grazed field.  There were 12 little egrets drifting this way and that, following the cattle and amongst them a wonderful, small, stocky, pearly white egret - a cattle egret;

Little egrets

Walking through the reserve I wandered on tracks between reed-fringed peat cuttings, wet woodland (birch, willow and alder), dry woodland (oak), around a large damp meadow and onto a refurbished hide, about 1km from the site entrance.  The ground flora is really starting to flush out now and the trees and shrubs were rich with singing warblers - blackcaps, chiff-chaffs and willow warblers.

The usual marshland species, such as booming bitterns were heard and later on, across the road at RSPB Ham Wall, a marsh harrier was seen.  Amongst the other early summer migrants was a large flock of sand martins - scooping up the huge mosquitoes I hope.

One highlight of spring which I always hope to see is the elegant dance of the great-crested grebe and I was lucky enough (or patient enough) to witness one this time - although as always it was quite far off:

Grebe at Ham Wall
A great white egret also lurked behind the reeds (so with herons that makes five such species in one day)

Marsh harrier
A number of native birds also contributed to the delightful spring soundscape - including wrens, blackbirds, thrushes, lapwings, cetti's warblers and reed buntings.

There was a good number of bees and butterflies including peacocks and brimstones.

Capturing an image of a singing willow warbler or chiff-chaff in a pussy willow tree, against a bright blue sky remains an ambition - these are the latest attempts of a willow warbler:

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