Saturday, 8 March 2014


The 1st of March is regarded as the start of the meteorological spring but others prefer to take the Spring Equinox as their starting point. I'm optimistic and  like to follow the Met Office on this. Once February has been and gone I think winter is over. If we get any snow it rarely persists, the sun is too strong and the days too long for the snow not to melt quickly. There's also the fact of the sun rising before me so I'm feeding the sheep before work in full daylight at last. This year Spring hasn't let me down and if anything has arrived early. Daffodils are bursting in to bloom, buds are swelling on the hedgerows and the rooks are busy carrying sticks to their growing nests. White blossom is already smothering the branches of the Blackthorns, there is a chorus of bird song on sunny mornings and flag irises are growing rapidly in the damp woodland. Spring is well underway.

Of course, winter often fights back. I went to Minsmere last Sunday afternoon where under a sullen grey sky, a strong cold southerly wind made the walk from North Bank down to the South Levels quite an effort. The birds too had a strong winter feel to them with hundreds of ducks including 3 Smew on the Scrape and few waders. I missed the Spoonbill that had visited earlier. The principal reason for my visit was to watch the Starling roost in the Minsmere reedbeds. Island Mere hide was standing room only but the Starlings put on a spectacular display of close formation flying, forming a whirling, rollercoaster amoeba that rolled and flashed across the reeds in the gathering gloomy dusk.

The spring and sunshine returned on Monday just in time for the working week. We dropped the water level on our scrape 2 weeks ago exposing a muddy margin. The Teal seem to prefer it this way and many have moved out of the Alder wood to dabble in the shallower water. Small parties of Lapwing have been moving through and yesterday I was delighted to see Lapwing displaying on the scrape marsh. Today 6 Lapwing were on this marsh and a low-flying Buzzard caused an instant aggressive response from one of the birds who continued his tumbling display flight for several minutes after the Buzzard had passed. The Marsh Harriers too have been showing signs of breeding behaviour. Reed Bunting numbers have been building up on the garden feeders as seems to happen each year as spring progresses, reaching a peak of 9, many in full summer plumage already. A stunning spring plumaged male Lesser Redpoll this morning was also a first for the niger seed feeder this year. Over it all, the classic soundtrack of spring and early summer here, the busy sound of the rooks in their rookery plays constantly. All we need now are some summer migrants.

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