Today I had the most lovely start to the day, accompanying Grounds Manager Paul on the first of his three Breeding Bird Surveys. After defrosting the car I arrived at the centre at 6am, to find the most stunning views of the centre shrouded in a fine mist, hanging over the water. Two other friends of the centre also came along looking to improve their birdsong identification skills and we set out along the side of Wetlands Discovery. Some species were a little quiet to begin with but the chiff chaffs were making up for them, along with a great tit and blackbird. We started to catch snippets of sedge warbler which developed into the characteristic scratchy song . You can hear this easily out on the boats, but have a listen to this clip in preparation! Sedge warblers arrived at the centre last week but we were keeping our ears open for slightly more melodic song of the first reed warbler of the year.
The sound of Cetti’s warblers also started to fill the air and then continued throughout the reserve, trying to overpower some of the more gentle song like the reed bunting. We made our way right around the perimeter of the grounds, along the back of the wet grassland where we had to pause to admire a proud mallard mother with fifteen freshly hatched ducklings. We also watched one of the nine nesting pairs of lapwing dive bombing a pheasant which had wandered too close to its nest. Behind the lost reedbed we were listening to blackcap singing, a beautiful short song, when Paul suddenly picked up on a reed warbler! Very pleased with our discovery, we stopped for a while trying to memorise the sound for next time.
In the woodland loop we were greeted by nuthatch song, loud and proud. The returning contact calls indicated that there were two and Paul is keeping his fingers crossed that they will nest on site. Noticeably absent were robins and song thrush. We heard one of each singing but most are now pretty quiet as they are on eggs or feeding young so the flirting has mainly come to an end.
We were treated to some great views of Cetti’s throughout the reed bed, particularly through the carr woodland where we know they like to nest in some of the denser patches of phragmites. One male’s loud alarm call signalled that it was time to move on so we left them to enjoy the quiet before the doors open to the public. Out of the sand martin hide we saw four noisy oystercatchers which will hopefully stay around to breed, they were quite late last year so we’ll keep an eye on them as the weeks progress.
At about 8.30am I headed back into the building to crack on with some work but the others continued along the tranquil trail and saw a pair of bullfinches. Long tailed tits also have several nests now so there should be plenty of young around soon.
Other sightings this week included common sandpiper and to the delight of everyone, a pair of great crested grebe in front of the visitor centre one morning. They only popped in briefly but it’s an excellent sign for the future once work on the Arun Riverlife project completes.
Have a great week, I’m off to Slimbridge next week so I’ll update you when I get back.
Best wishes, Liv