Monday, March 24, 2014

Saturday 22nd March - The Sand Martins are here.

Quite a lot going on this week. I had a day off on Monday and helped the rangers install some artificial Tern nests on the main lake island. These consisted of some old tyres part filled with gravel. The Terns like a gravel base for their nests and the tyres give somewhere for the chicks to take shelter from both the weather and predators. Hopefully after the failed nests last year we might have some success this year when the Common Terns arrive. Let's hope they like our handy work.

The afternoon was spent planting up the hedge in the Sheep Pen and a few new trees to fill a few holes left after the removal of a few of the older trees. All in all a very satisfying day.

This week has also seen the arrival of the Sand Martins with DK reporting the first ones in the middle of the week and numbers building slowly from then. I arrived in the park early on Saturday morning and had a single Sand Martin in just after I arrived.

Record shot of my first Sand Martin this year

This was followed by groups of 33,7,5,6 and 4 all coming in from the north east, so probably a local roost over towards 100 Acre or Willington GP.

Another noticeable change has been the number of Chiffchaffs in the park. We have been fortunate to have them over wintering on the edge of the park but Saturday saw c20 in the park, a similar number to that recorded by DK on Friday morning. Many of these were found along the south side of the main lake with many none singing birds flitting around the scrub and tree tops. There are also plenty of singing Chiffies in the park, a sure sign that Spring has sprung.

While I was waiting for the groups of Sand Martins to come a cacophony of alarm calls alerted me to the presence of a Sparrowhawk and sure enough a scan of the sky picked up this female who flew into the tree next to me. She is a very different bird to the one we have been seeing regularly, the other being a much greyer bird also showing some pink flushing around the edge of the breast. We even thought the other was a male to start with, until the male arrived and they mated!

Female Sparrowhawk
As usual a wander over to 100 Acre was well worth the effort. The Black-winged Stilt was on the island. There were still a few Wigeon about but numbers a reducing now. Other highlights were the Oystercatchers, Redshanks, Buzzard and at least 3 Ringed Plovers on the Castle Mill earth Works.
Two Ringed Plovers
Ringed Plover
On Sunday TP reported a male Blackcap singing and showing well in scrub by the gap in the Long Hedge, close to the ringing area in 'The Rough'. The first one this year.

CS had 2 Shelduck on Castle Mill, viewed from the earthworks on the east side of 100 Acre.