Monday, 4 May 2009

May Bank-holiday

Many of the spring migrant birds have arrived by now, but there are still more to come. The first swifts, swallows and hobbies have arrived, but they are only the vanguard for the main arrivals that come in May. We can still get a few surprises. Last year we saw a wryneck near the moorings. Who knows what this year will bring? The best so far, for me, was last week's whiskered tern at Diddington. The only one I had ever seen before was in Seychelles, and it was dead. They normally occur in a broad band that extends from Australia to Spain, but mostly in the sub-tropics.

This month we give guided walks almost every evening and at weekends because nightingales are the big attraction, but even in mid afternoon, when the sun is high and the birds are largely silent, we can finds a lot to keep us interested. This week I found a small colony of frogs and a grass snake in the gully (near the beach) and I was totally delighted because frogs have almost disappeared from the reserve in recent years. Butterflies seem plentiful this spring, for the first time in years and the wild flowers are also looking their best this month. I was amazed to see hundreds of small grasshoppers this early in the year.

However, the forecast is for a dry summer and this will stress the system because we have relatively little shade and our thin soils, where we have any, will soon dry out.

Fortunately, we are pretty much on top of our reserve management programme, including the farm component. Our cereals are all planted and all that remains is to sow our wild bird cover mix to feed our small birds after harvest.

At the weekend we had a visit from Paul Walsh and the Hertfordshire Heavy Horse Society who came to plough our remaining fallow fields. Unfortunately the ground was too hard and only a few furrows were ploughed, but they provided a great opportunity for a photograph or two.